Early Spring 2007
It’s an Emergency! (Or Is It?)
It’s an Emergency! (Or Is It?)

When you or someone you love is injured or suddenly becomes very sick, where do you go—to a walk-in medical center, or to the emergency department? And should you drive, or call an ambulance? Here’s a set of guidelines to help you get the most appropriate care in the most appropriate way.

Call 911 if the injured or ill person:
  • Is an adult with chest pain, particularly if they are known to have heart trouble, or if the pain is associated with sweating, nausea or vomiting, or travels into the back, shoulders or arms.
  • Suffers a sudden inability to move or speak (possible signs of a stroke).
  • Has severe bleeding, or bleeding that doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of direct pressure.
  • Has a seizure (convulsion) and remains confused, or has decreased mental function for more than a few minutes after the seizure stops, or has repeated seizures.
  • Has trouble breathing.
  • Is unconscious.
  • May have an injury to the neck or spine.
  • Has a broken bone that penetrates the skin.

"If you’re in doubt about the seriousness of a situation, call 911," says Bryan Jordan, DO, Associate Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Bridgeport Hospital. "It means you will get professional care even before you reach the emergency department."

Drive the patient to the emergency department if the illness or injury is serious but not life-threatening:
  • A broken bone that does not penetrate the skin— as long as you can splint the injury so it doesn't move, and can manage the pain. If you can't effectively splint the injury, or control the pain, do call 911.
  • A head injury that causes unconsciousness in the victim, even briefly.
  • A gaping wound larger than an inch.
  • A sudden high fever (over 104°F for adults, 100.4°F for children) or any fever with convulsions.
  • Fainting, even if the patient soon recovers.
  • Abdominal pain that lasts longer than a few hours, is severe, or is associated with vomiting blood or blood in the bowels.
  • Severe animal bites, or any bite from an animal other than a dog or cat.
Go to the closest walk-in medical center:
  • If the problem is not one of those discussed above, but it requires prompt treatment and can’t wait for an appointment with the doctor.