Nurse's Station

How To Know When To Go To The Emergency Room (Infographic)


Knowing when a condition is serious enough to warrant a visit to your hospital’s emergency room is vital information. You can prevent an unnecessary and costly trip to the ER by knowing when it is appropriate to go, or whether you can opt for a trip to an urgent care center or family physician instead.
17% of ER visits are not necessary, leading to $4.4 billion in avoidable costs. Check this out to know when to go (or not):


When to take your infant to the ER

– It is best to first contact your doctor through their on-call number in order to gauge the seriousness of the situation.
Go To The ER IF:
– In babies under 3 months old, if their temperature is over 100.3 F. In babies over 3 months old, if their temperature is over 105.
– Changes in skin color (turning pale, yellow, or mottled.
– Changes in their normal cry.
– Changes in sleeping patterns, hard to wake.
– Changes in muscle tone, or if they feel different
– Breathing changes (slow, labored)
– If your baby turns blue

When to take your child to the ER

– If your child has difficulty breathing, signs include:
— Breathing faster than normal.
— Visible ribs or collarbone when breathing in.
— The belly moving outward when breathing in.
— The nostrils moving outward when breathing in.
— Blue lips or tongue.
– If your child has a fever and a stiff neck, dehydration, or a condition that makes them susceptible to infections.
– Call 911 immediately if your child has a fever and stops breathing, has a seizure, or is difficult to rouse.
– If your child has ingested a toxic chemical or a medication that was not prescribed to them.
– If your child has a broken bone that looks out of place or is obviously deformed, an open wound where a bone might be broken, or if your child reports that the area feels numb, tingling, or weak.

When to go to the ER as an adult

– The decision to go to the ER becomes easier as an adult, because you are the one afflicted and understand the seriousness of the situation.
Go to the ER if:
– Signs of a stroke, which include:
— Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
— Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye.
— Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech.
— Sudden, severe headaches with no known cause.
— Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or sudden falls, especially when paired with other stroke symptoms.
– Loss of consciousness.
– Signs of a heart attack lasting two minutes or more including:
— Pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest.
— Sudden dimness or loss of vision, tightness, burning, or aching under the breastbone.
— Chest pain with lightheadedness.
– Poisoning – Call your local poison control center first and ask for immediate home treatment advice. Certain poisons should be vomited, others should be diluted with water.
– Drowsiness, unexplained stupor, or disorientation.
– Bleeding that does not stop after ten min of direct pressure.
– Sudden and severe pain.
– A major injury, such as a head trauma.
– A severe reaction to an insect bite/sting.
– Severe or persistent vomiting.
– Homicidal or suicidal feelings.

Bad Reasons to go to the ER

The following are situations that are self-treatable or where urgent care or a doctor’s visit would be appropriate.

– Toothaches (urgent care is usually the better choice if your dentist’s office is closed)
– Chest pain not accompanied by nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath, or a history of diabetes or heart disease.
– Cold/flu symptoms, unless w/fainting, frequent diarrhea, changes in vision, chest pressure, or frequent vomiting.
– Sprains
– Back pain (#1 reason for ER visits as of 2008)
– Headaches
– Minor cuts
– Sunburns or minor burns
– Rash, unless MRSA is suspected
– Fevers
– Insect stings (unless breathing is impaired)
– STDs and STD complications
– Ear ache


Thanks to Top Nursing Programs for the great infographic!

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