“Better safe than sorry”, many of us heard growing up. But how does that apply practically to medical situations? How can you tell if that stomachache requires a trip to the ER or is just a result of a bad dinner?
If “When should I go to the ER?” is a recurring question for you, it’s time to refresh your understanding of different medical conditions. Some are minor enough that rest will suffice, but others do require urgent care. Here’s how to tell the difference.
Distinguishing Between an Emergency and a Minor Issue
No one feels at their best all the time. An occasional headache, stomachache, cramp, or other minor problem is normal and generally fine. Even a mild sickness can be treated at home. Symptoms that call for an ER visit fall into one of two categories:
- Severe symptoms or pain you’ve rarely, if ever, experienced before
- Symptoms or pain you have a history of experiencing, but this time things are far more severe than normal
New Symptoms or Pain
Sudden health problems make their presence known in different ways, including sudden pain or odd symptoms that seemingly appear out of nowhere. You know your body and what you normally feel. If anything feels off or worse than usual, that can be a red flag.
As an example, consider a patient with no history of severe headaches. They’re suddenly struck by the worst headache of their life, seemingly out of nowhere. They haven’t hit their head or done anything unusual. This circumstance requires emergency care because a sudden, severe headache can mean one of two things: either you’ve just experienced your first migraine, or you’re having an aneurysm. One is more severe, but both are serious. The patient should get to urgent care as fast as possible.
Of course, some injuries or medical problems will always require an urgent care visit. These include:
- Animal bites
- Eye injuries
- Severe fever (over 100.4 F for babies or 104 F for adults, or accompanied by other symptoms and not responding to fever reducing medication)
- Sudden, painful difficulty breathing
- Large and/or severe burns, especially on sensitive parts of the body
- Deep cuts, especially on sensitive parts of the body
- Severe abdominal pain or bleeding in pregnant women
- Pain or loss of circulation in genitals
- Blood in urine or stool
- Sudden severe pain, especially in the stomach or lower back
- “Pressure” or severe pain in the chest
- Significant bumps to the head, especially if accompanied by other symptoms
- Sudden severe headaches with no precedent
- Sudden dizziness, clumsiness, and/or confusion
- Seizures without a prior diagnosis to explain them
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get to an urgent care clinic as fast as possible. Don’t drive yourself–have someone else take you. It’s better to have a false alarm visit than to ignore a genuinely dangerous problem.
Take Care of Yourself!
Part of preventive healthcare is learning to listen to your body. Sudden, unpleasant changes often signal that something is very wrong. Learn to recognize your “normal” so you can decide quickly when you need help.
Contact us to learn more about our urgent care services.