Tips for when to go to ER, avoid overtreatment

Last Updated: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 04:10 hrs

Wondering whether an illness or injury warrants a trip to the emergency room is a common quandary. With severe, life-threatening conditions, call 911. Here are some other symptoms experts say require an ER visit:

—Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

—Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more

—Severe persistent abdominal pain

—Loss of consciousness, or sudden dizziness and weakness

—Sudden changes in vision or difficulty speaking

—Confusion or changes in mental status

—Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea

—Severe sprain or suspected broken bone, usually involving more pain and swelling than a minor sprain, which doesn't merit emergency care.

To avoid unnecessary tests and procedures once you get to the ER ask lots of questions:

—Is this the best test or treatment?

—What are its costs, benefits, and risks?

—Are there alternative tests that are cheaper or less risky?

—Why do I need this test now, and what would happen if I don't get it now?


From The American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation and other sources.

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