To Go to the Emergency Room or Not to Go, That Is the Question

By Donald Wilcox, M.D., Emergency Medicine Physician

When faced with a medical emergency, it can be difficult to decide whether or not a trip to the Emergency Room (ER) is necessary. It's important to use good judgment in deciding what constitutes a medical emergency.

Welcoming anyone who believes they need emergency medical care, Pali Momi Medical Center's expanded ER can handle a full range of emergency conditions, from a cut on the finger to broken bones and chest pain.

Call 911 to be taken to the ER if you are experiencing:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Signs of a heart attack, including pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest; tightness, burning or aching under the breastbone; chest pain with lightheadedness or pounding of the heart; and irregular heartbeat
  • Signs of a stroke, including sudden weakness or numbness of the face or one side of the body; sudden loss of vision; loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech; sudden, severe headaches; unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • A major injury
  • Unexplained stupor, drowsiness or disorientation
  • Coughing up, vomiting or passing blood

Do go to the ER if experiencing:

  • Bleeding that doesn't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Sudden, severe pain
  • Poisoning or overdose (Note: if possible, call the poison control center first and ask for immediate home treatment advice. Phone 1-800-222-1222.)
  • Severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting or to a medication, especially if breathing is difficult
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Sprain/fracture
  • Minor cut
  • Animal bite
  • Skin rash

Call your physician before going to the ER for:

  • An earache
  • Sunburn or minor burns
  • An insect sting or bite or a delayed reaction from one (However, if there is breathing difficulty DO go to the ER)
  • Fever (However, if there is a convulsion, DO go to the ER)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Colds and coughs, sore throat or flu

ER staff can't give advice over the phone. Your doctor can tell you whether emergency treatment is necessary. Call your physician and describe your symptoms.