Do I Need to Go to the Emergency Room?
emergency rooms (ERs) are set up to focus on medical emergencies. They are not
set up to focus on routine health care. If you go to the ER for a problem that
is not an emergency:
- It will cost a lot more than it would at your
doctor's office or a walk-in clinic. A trip to the ER for an earache, for
example, may cost three to four times as much as it would at your doctor's
- You will probably spend a lot more time there than you
would at a walk-in clinic or doctor's office.
- You will get care
from a doctor who has probably never seen you before. It's always best to get
as much of your care as you can from a doctor who knows and understands
Go to the ER if you think you are having a medical
emergency. That's what the ER is for. Otherwise, call your doctor's office
first, or go to a walk-in clinic. It will save you money and time.
How do I know when it's an emergency?
few clear rules about what is an emergency and what isn't. Most doctors would
agree on a short list of problems that should always be treated as
emergencies-chest pain that could be a heart attack, not being able to breathe,
severe and uncontrolled bleeding, stroke symptoms, and a few others.
Most health problems are not emergencies. You may
want to take care of the problem right away because you feel sick or
uncomfortable, but nothing bad is going to happen to you if you wait a bit.
Then again, you don't always know that for sure. Some problems that seem minor
can become serious if you ignore them. And it may be even harder to know what
to do when a child is sick.
One good question to ask yourself is,
"Am I thinking about going to the ER because it's convenient or because it's necessary?"
If you are choosing the ER because you can get in without an appointment, keep
in mind the high price you will pay for that convenience. You may also have to
wait a long time before you are seen by a doctor. And you may have other
options. You can always call your doctor's office or a nurse line for help.
What if a problem happens on a weekend or at night?
If you think you are having a medical emergency, call 911 or other emergency services immediately or go to the ER.
don't think the problem is an emergency:
- Use the "Search" feature to look up your
problem on this website, and read the information about when to call a doctor.
See if there is home treatment you can try.
- Call your doctor's
office and see if there is a number to call for after-hours
- Call a nurse line for advice. The nurse can help you
decide whether you need to get help now or whether it is safe to
- Go to a walk-in clinic (if one is open).
- Go to
the ER if you feel the problem cannot wait until your doctor's office or a
walk-in clinic is open.
What is a walk-in clinic?