Skip to main content

How to Know When to Get Health Care at an Emergency Room

Don't ignore potentially serious symptoms, or rush to the emergency room when you don't need to. Learn when to seek health care at the ER, with these guidelines for adults.


  • TIP: Signs of a broken bone include a misshapen limb or one that's difficult or impossible to move; swelling; intense pain; and numbness or tingling.
  • Step 1: Don't hesitate to go to the hospital for emergency care if you're feeling suicidal.
  • Step 2: If you're not sure your symptoms warrant a trip to the ER, call your doctor for instructions. Everyone will be better off if the ER is reserved for people who really need urgent care.
  • FACT: As many as 95 percent of people who go to an emergency room complaining of chest pain are _not_ having a heart attack.
  • Step 3: Have a bone looked at by an ER physician if you suspect it's broken or dislocated; don't head to the emergency room for a simple sprain.
  • Step 4: Don't ignore uncontrolled bleeding or severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea. Also get emergency room health care if you are coughing or vomiting up blood.
  • Step 5: Seek emergency health care if you have sudden or severe abdominal pain, or chest pain or pressure that last 2 minutes or longer.
  • Step 6: Head to the emergency room if you faint or experience sudden dizziness or weakness. An abrupt change in vision is another symptom that should be evaluated by an emergency room doctor.
  • Step 7: Seek emergency health care for mental confusion or difficulty speaking, which could be signs of a stroke.
  • Step 8: Don't hesitate to go to the ER if you are having difficulty breathing.

Popular Categories