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When to use the Emergency Room

For adults:

Signs of an Emergency

How quickly do you need care? If a person or unborn baby could die or be permanently disabled, it is an emergency.Call 911 to have the emergency team come to you right away if you cannot wait, such as for:

  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing
  • Head injury with passing out, fainting, or confusion
  • Injury to neck or spine, especially if there is loss of feeling or inability to move
  • Electric shock or lightning strike
  • Severe burn
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Seizure that lasted 3 to 5 minutes

Go to an emergency department or call 911 for help for problems such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Passing out, fainting
  • Pain in the arm or jaw
  • Unusual or bad headache, especially if it started suddenly
  • Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk, or move
  • Suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body
  • Dizziness or weakness that does not go away
  • Inhaled smoke or poisonous fumes
  • Sudden confusion
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Possible broken bone, loss of movement, especially if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • Deep wound
  • Serious burn
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Severe pain anywhere on the body
  • Severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, hives
  • High fever with headache and stiff neck
  • High fever that does not get better with medicine
  • Throwing up or loose stools that does not stop
  • Poisoning or overdose of drug or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures

Source: National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus

When to use the emergency room for children:

Signs of an Emergency

How quickly does your child need care? If your child could die or be permanently disabled, it is an emergency.

Call 911 to have the emergency team come to you right away if you cannot wait, such as for:

  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing or turning blue
  • Possible poisoning (call the nearest Poison Control Center)
  • Head injury with passing out, throwing up, or not behaving normally
  • Injury to neck or spine
  • Severe burn
  • Seizure that lasted 3 to 5 minutes
  • Bleeding that cannot be stopped

Go to an emergency department or call 911 for help for problems such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Passing out, fainting
  • Severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, hives
  • High fever with headache and stiff neck
  • High fever that does not get better with medicine
  • Suddenly hard to wake up, too sleepy, or confused
  • Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk, or move
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Deep wound
  • Serious burn
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Possible broken bone, loss of movement, primarily if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • A body part near an injured bone is numb, tingling, weak, cold, or pale
  • Unusual or bad headache or chest pain
  • Fast heartbeat that does not slow down
  • Throwing up or loose stools that do not stop
  • Mouth is dry, no tears, no wet diapers in 18 hours, soft spot in the skull is sunken (dehydrated)

Source: National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus

The information provided is not intended to be medical advice and is for informational purposes only.

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