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Emergency Rooms (ER) are becoming more crowded. As a result, patients are being asked to wait longer for care. We can all help reduce the complications of this by visiting the ER only when we have an urgent medical problem.
Emergency treatment costs significantly more than a healthcare provider visit. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 10% of ER visits every year are for medical problems that are not urgent. It is important to know when to go to the ER as it could save your life. But when a medical problem is not serious, it is better to treat your condition at home, or see your primary care healthcare provider or pharmacist.
Learning the signs of serious illnesses and trusting yourself are important. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency:
Bleeding will not stop
Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty arousing)
Coughing up or vomiting blood
Fainting or loss of consciousness
Feeling of committing suicide or murder
Head or spine injury
Severe or lasting vomiting
Sudden injury due to events like a motor vehicle accident, burns, or smoke inhalation, near drowning, or deep or large wound
Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
Swallowing a poisonous substance
Upper abdominal pain or pressure
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, go to the ER right away. But if you have the flu or another minor illness, see your health care provider or talk with a pharmacist to see if there are over-the-counter medicines you can take.
If you’re not sure an emergency exists, call the ER, your healthcare provider, or your health plan’s advice line first.
Look into other treatment options. An urgent care center can help you avoid an expensive trip to the ER for treatment of minor illnesses such as fevers, broken bones, ear infections, and the flu.
Make sure you contact your health plan regarding your ER visit. For example, some health plans want you to tell them within 24 hours of being admitted or being seen in the ER. In some cases, failure to notify will result in that visit not being covered by your insurance.
Take good care of yourself. Stay healthy by eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and treating minor illnesses before they become major. Also, get routine medical care, and do not smoke. These steps are the best ways to avoid the need for emergency medical care.
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