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An emergency means you could die if you don’t get care quickly. Or you could be hurt permanently (disabled). Read below to know when to use—and when not to use—an emergency department (also called ED).
Here are examples of emergencies. This is not a complete list. These need immediate care:
A hard time breathing
Severe chest pain or pressure
Suddenly not able to move or speak
Suddenly not being able to feel an arm or a leg
Blacking out (fainting)`
Coughing or vomiting blood
Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
Changes in mental status or confusion, difficulty waking, unusual behavior
Changes in vision
Sudden onset of "worst headache of your life"
Thoughts of harming another person
Here are other emergencies. These also need care right away:
Deep cuts or severe burns
Broken bones, or sudden severe pain and swelling in a joint
If you have an emergency, follow the steps below.
If you can, go to the hospital ED closest to you right away.
If you cannot get there right away, or if it is not safe to move the victim, or take yourself, call 911 or your police emergency number.
Tell your doctor about the emergency. Call within 24 hours of going to the ED.
If you can't call, have someone call for you.
Go to your doctor (not the ED) for any follow-up care.
If a problem is not an emergency, follow these steps:
If you don’t know the name of your doctor, call your health plan.
Your doctor will tell you what you should do.
You may be told to see your doctor right away. You may be told to go to the ED. Or you may be told to go to an urgent care center.
Follow your doctor’s advice.
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