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When to Go to the Emergency Department

It’s important to use good judgment when deciding when emergency medical treatment is needed.

Some Guidelines

If you are alarmed by unusually severe symptoms, seek immediate care. When possible, call your primary care physician and describe your symptoms. Your physician can tell you whether emergency treatment is necessary. In case of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

Some signs that emergency care is needed:

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Signs of heart attack that last two minutes or more. These include: pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest; tightness, burning, or aching under the breastbone; chest pain with lightheadedness.
  • Signs of a stroke, including: 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 accompanied by any other stroke symptoms.
  • Broken bones and fractures.
  • Severe shortness of breath.
  • Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
  • Sudden, severe pain.
  • Poisoning – Note: If possible, call your local poison control center first (Grand Rapids Poison Control Center – 800.222.1222) and ask for immediate home treatment advice. Certain poisons should be vomited as soon as possible while others should be diluted with water as soon as possible. Such preliminary home treatment could save your life.
  • A severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to a medication, especially if breathing is difficult.
  • A major injury, such as a head trauma.
  • Unexplained stupor, drowsiness, or disorientation.
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings.