When to Come to the ER

When should adults go to the Emergency Department?

When you think that you or a loved one have a medical condition that is life-threatening, call 9-1-1 and have an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider come to you.

Warning signs indicating a medical emergency:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Any sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Unusual abdominal pain

When should children go to the Emergency Room?

We understand that when your child suddenly becomes ill it seems like a crisis warranting a visit to the ER. Keep in mind, however, that your own pediatrician, who knows your child and has access to your child's medical record, is probably just a phone call away. Emergency rooms can be scary places for kids, and unless your child is extremely sick, you could be waiting for a while. Because the ER has such specialized staff and equipment, the cost of an ER visit will be higher than your doctor's office or an urgent care center.

Children have unique medical problems and may exhibit different symptoms than adults. Some symptoms that are serious for children may not be as serious for adults. Younger children may also be unable to communicate their condition, which means an adult will need to interpret the behavior. Always seek immediate medical attention if you think your child is having a medical emergency.

Warning signs indicating a pediatric medical emergency:

For the following situations, we recommend bringing your child directly to the ER. Call 911 if you need help getting your child there.

  • Severe cuts or lacerations
  • A head or neck injury with loss of consciousness or vomiting
  • An altered mental state: either a decrease in the level of consciousness or excessive sleepiness or having uncontrollable agitated behavior
  • Severe burns of all types, including chemical and electrical burns, especially on the face
  • Poisoning, caused by ingesting dangerous chemicals or medications
  • Convulsions lasting more than 15 minutes or any unexpected convulsions
  • A serious animal bite which has broken the skin
  • Difficulty in breathing, uncontrollable choking, or turning blue around the lips
  • Stopping breathing or the pulse stopping
  • Signs of shock, including pale, cold clammy skin and a weak and rapid pulse
  • Severe headache accompanied with vomiting or stiff neck.