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7 symptoms that mean you should go to the ER immediately

7 symptoms that mean you should go to the ER immediately


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Everyone's been there; it's a weekend or a weekday evening, your doctor's office is closed and you or a family member are experiencing symptoms that may be serious—or may not be.

While a trip to the ER might give you peace of mind, there are lots of reasons people tend to avoid it—from copays to wait times to possible exposure to viruses like COVID-19. If you've ever wondered whether a trip to the emergency room is necessary—particularly during a pandemic—it's important to recognize the kinds of symptoms that require immediate medical help.

So don't think twice; head straight to the ER if you or a family member experiences any of the following symptoms.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Last April, emergency room visits for heart attack symptoms declined by nearly 40%, likely due to fear from patients about exposure to COVID-19, reports the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

But unexplained chest pain should never be ignored, warns the American Heart Association—especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms of a heart attack, like shortness of breath, pain in one or both arms or pain in other areas of the body, like your jaw, neck or back.

Additionally, nausea, vomiting or dizziness may also accompany a heart attack. Get immediate medical attention if you experience sudden chest pain or any combination of these symptoms.

Major trauma

A bad fall, a deep cut, a car accident, an accidental gunshot wound or a head injury of any kind should always be treated by an emergency room physician. Whether or not the emergency room is a trauma center, it will have far more resources than your local urgent care center, like advanced imaging equipment and diagnostic testing, general surgeons available 24 hours a day and physicians trained in trauma medicine.

Don't wait if you or a family member has experienced a serious trauma—call an ambulance or head straight to the ER.

Stiff neck and a fever

Life can be a pain in the neck—so there are many reasons you might experience pain in your neck. But if you're experiencing neck stiffness combined with a high fever, call 911 or go straight to the emergency room. Both of these are symptomatic of meningitis, a deadly infection of the membrane covering the spinal cord and brain, states the Meningitis Research Foundation.

7 symptoms that mean you should go to the ER immediately
Photo: Shutterstock

Sudden abdominal pain

When it's not just something you ate, it may warrant an emergency room visit. Sudden pain on the right side of your abdomen could be a case of appendicitis and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and bloating.

If you have appendicitis, time is of the essence, as a ruptured appendix spreads infection throughout your abdomen and can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of a stroke

If you experience the symptoms of a stroke, you need help fast—and FAST is the best way to quickly recall the tell-tale signs: face drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech and time to call 911. The American Stroke Association urges anyone experiencing any of these symptoms to call an ambulance or head to the ER immediately.

Severe allergic reactions

For people with severe allergies, there are some things Benadryl can't cure. Severe anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock warrant a 911 call or a speedy trip to the emergency room.

According to Everyday Health, symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include cough, itchy throat or mouth, nausea and vomiting, itchiness or rash or dizziness or lightheadedness. Every second counts when you're experiencing anaphylaxis, so get to an emergency room STAT.

Serious case of COVID-19

In many people, COVID-19 can feel like a mild bug. But keep in mind the virus has killed more than 400,000 Americans according to the New York Times, and can be extremely serious, particularly in older people or those with preexisting medical conditions.

If you have COVID-19 and are experiencing difficulty breathing, bluish lips of face, difficulty waking or staying awake, confusion or persistent pain or pressure in the chest, it's important to seek emergency medical attention.

Steward Health Care is ready to help

Remember, every second counts when you're experiencing a potentially serious medical issue, so never overthink a trip to the emergency room when your health is at stake. The health professionals at Steward Health Care are prepared and ready to help you when serious symptoms strike. Find your nearest emergency room for more information.

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