If you're in a car accident or having a heart attack, you know you need to head for the emergency department. For other injuries and illnesses, it can be more difficult to decide whether to go to a HonorHealth emergency department, seek out an immediate care center, or see your primary care physician.
If you're unsure about where to go for care, you should contact your family physician for advice immediately.
When to Call 9-1-1
Call 9-1-1 immediately when you or someone you know has a serious or life-threatening injury or medical condition. Do not try to drive yourself, or anyone else, to the hospital if the condition appears serious. Paramedics who respond to 9-1-1 emergency calls are specially trained to stabilize patients and coordinate their care with the most appropriate hospital emergency department.
Life-threatening medical conditions that warrant calling 9-1-1 include, but are not limited to:
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Stroke symptoms, including dizziness, weakness on one side, slurred speech or sudden onset of paralysis.
- Severe abdominal pain, especially after an injury.
- Uncontrollable bleeding.
- Blunt head trauma or a penetrating wound to the head.
- Confusion or loss of consciousness, especially after a head injury.
- Neck injury.
- Poisoning or suspected drug overdose.
- Venomous snake bites.
- Bites from scorpion stings or poisonous spiders, such as black widows or brown recluses — particularly in the case of small children, the elderly or anyone with a suppressed immune system.
- Serious burns or cuts.
- Broken bones.
Not all emergencies that should be treated in the hospital are immediately life- threatening. In such cases, call 9-1-1. When paramedics arrive, they'll evaluate the situation and tell you if it's safe to take your loved one to the hospital yourself.
However, individuals with chest pain, dizziness or stroke symptoms should never drive themselves to the hospital. It's dangerous for them and other drivers.
Urgent conditions usually can be treated at home until you're able to visit an immediate care center or your physician. Examples of urgent situations include:
- Ear infections.
- Urinary tract infections.
Physician Office Visits
Colds, minor flu symptoms, chronic conditions and prescription refills are situations that usually can be addressed by visiting your physician during office hours. If you're tempted to visit the Emergency Department in these situations, you'll probably have to wait. An Emergency Department sees patients in order of priority based on the seriousness of their conditions.