Should You Go to the ER?
Better safe than sorry
Go to the ER if you have: Heart attack symptoms
Go to the ER if you have: Signs of stroke
...like sudden numbness or weakness in a limb or one side of your face; sudden speech difficulties (such as talking gibberish or jumbling words); trouble seeing out of one or both eyes; unexpected dizziness or loss of balance; or an excruciating, inexplicable headache.
Go to the ER if you have: A blow to the head
Go to the ER if you have: Any loss of consciousness or fainting
...even if you think it’s just because you haven’t eaten all day. It might be nothing, but it could also signal a heart or circulation problem or even a stroke. "There’s no way to determine the cause on your own," says emergency physician Richard O’Brien, MD, an associate professor in the division of medicine in the department of clinical sciences at the Commonwealth Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Go to the ER if you have: A possible broken bone
Go to the ER if you have: Bleeding
...that doesn’t stop when you apply pressure for 10 to 20 minutes; any wound that impairs your ability to function (like a leg injury that bleeds like crazy when you bend your knee); or a gaping wound that fully penetrates the skin (so you can see muscle, for example).
Go to the ER if you have: Sudden disorientation or confusion
Go to the ER if you have: A serious burn
...that covers an area larger than 2 or 3 inches or goes all the way around an area like the wrist; breaks the outer layer of skin; or causes numbness.
Go to the ER if you have: Repeated episodes of vomiting
...that make it impossible to keep fluids down, or nonstop diarrhea that keeps you in the bathroom, either of which can quickly lead to dehydration.
Go to the ER if you have: Severe pain
...halfway down your back on either side of your spine, which could signal a kidney stone or infection. "Any severe abdominal pain also warrants immediate care," Dr. O’Brien says. Ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, and gallstones are a few of the possible causes.
Call your doc if you have: A bite or puncture wound
Call your doc if you have: An unexplained fever
...that can’t be controlled with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your doc can advise you on how to bring the fever down (or determine if you need to go to the ER). If your fever is 105 degrees or higher, head straight to the ER.
Call your doc if you have: A skin abscess or infection
Break out the first-aid kit for: A mild head injury
Break out the first-aid kit for: Shallow cuts
...that are less than 1/2-inch long and aren’t bleeding much. "Clean it, push the skin back together, and apply a Steri-Strip or an adhesive bandage," Dr. Carius advises.
Break out the first-aid kit for: Minor burns
Break out the first-aid kit for: Mild sprains
...that don’t significantly impede your ability to function (meaning you can still walk on that leg or move that arm, even if it hurts). Follow the RICE advice: Rest the injured area, apply ice, compress the injury with an elastic bandage, and elevate it above your heart.