When to go to the Emergency Room, and when not to.

When to go to the Emergency Room, and when not to.

A high number of visits to the emergency room (ER) of a hospital aren’t considered emergencies. Many of these health issues can be addressed in a practice by a nurse or physician, a pharmacist, or care at home.

Looking for treatment at an emergency room for issues which are not emergencies poses several issues. In the emergency room, they don’t understand you and your health history, so they have incomplete details. This can lead to wasting resources and time on tests. Additionally, you’re surrounded by sick people, and that will spread infections to you; so if you’re there having a cold, the flu or other infectious illness, you can spread it to other men and women. Furthermore, it raises costs to the healthcare system. You’re taking up resources and time that could be used by those who actually do require emergency care.

When to go to the Emergency Room

There is no concrete rule on when to look for emergency medical services. But, there are a number of scenarios where the emergency area is the appropriate place to go. Listed below are common situations which may require emergency medical care. Remember, these are just general guidelines.

  • Severe physical trauma, like that caused by a vehicle accident.
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting) in case it happened due to an injury or causes an injury
  • Severe abdominal pain: particularly with fever
  • Sudden and severe headache: The worst headache of your life
  • Serious bleeding that does not stop with constant stress after 10 minutes.
  • Coughing up blood, blood in your vomit or bright red blood from the rectum (which isn't related to hemorrhoids).
  • Sudden chest pain or the sensation of a heavy weight on your torso: This may indicate a heart attack. Other signs of a heart attack include pain at the left shoulder or arm, a burning sensation or aching beneath the breastbone (that can be confused with heartburn), light-headedness, or jaw pain.
  • Acute shortness of breath
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the arms or legs and/or sudden onset of blurry vision, which could indicate a stroke.
  • An extremely rapid pulse at rest with no fever that is not associated with exercise or emotional stress
  • Poisoning. If you've been poisoned, first telephone Quebec Poison Control Center at 1-800-463-5060. If a person is unconscious from suspected poisoning, call 911.

If you are experiencing any one of the above conditions, immediately visit the closest emergency room or call 9-1-1 for an ambulance.

When NOT to go to the emergency room

Just as there are occasions when it’s appropriate to visit the emergency room, there are other times when it isn’t suitable to go. These include the following:

  • Health issues that can be treated at home with self care measures like a cold (runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, a sore throat, and maybe sneezing), the influenza (sudden onset of a high fever, chills, muscle and joint pains and headache), a sore throat or a minor burn, cut or scrape.
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting) *if no injury: The main cause of fainting is from a sudden drop in blood pressure, and the majority of the time this is not an emergency.
  • Minor aches or pains

If you are having any of the above, consult with a pharmacist, or call Info-Santé (dial 8-1-1) to receive advice from a nurse.

Additionally, you shouldn’t go to the emergency room to get a prescription refilled, to get a second opinion or if your family doctor Isn’t accessible.