Spring is in the air, and that means outdoor adventures! Unfortunately, that also means an increase in ER visits. Dr. David Fairbanks, director of emergency medicine at South Big Horn County Hospital explains some of the reasons why people visit the emergency room, and how you could be paying way too much for healthcare by emergency room overuse.
What are the most common reasons that people go to the ER?
The 13 most common reasons for emergency room visits are:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Syncope or fainting
- Motor vehicle accidents
(CDC 2010 stats)
How can a person tell if he or she needs to go to the ER? What are the signs?
Here are some good reasons to go to an emergency room:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Signs of a heart attack: Chest pain that last two minutes or more.
- Signs of a stroke: Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body; sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech; sudden, severe headaches with no known cause; unexplained dizziness, and unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially when accompanied by any other stroke symptoms.
- Severe shortness of breath.
- Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
- Sudden, severe pain.
- Poisoning — Call your local poison control center first and ask for immediate home treatment advice
- A severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to a medication, especially if breathing is difficult.
- A major injury, such as a head trauma.
- Unexplained stupor, drowsiness or disorientation.
- Coughing up or vomiting blood.
- Severe or persistent vomiting.
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings.
Bad reasons to go to an emergency room:
- Minor cuts where bleeding is controlled.
- A minor dog or animal bite where bleeding is controlled (but see your doctor — a rabies shot may be necessary).
- A sprain.
- A sunburn or minor burn from cooking.
- An insect sting.
- A skin rash.
- Sexually-transmitted diseases.
- Colds and cough, sore throat and flu.
- Urinary tract infection.
Is there anything else we should know about ER visits?
More than 40 percent of visits to the emergency room have less-than-urgent problems. If you have a family doctor (and you should!), call them first.
Especially during office hours. For urgent problems that don’t require emergency care, most doctors will rearrange their schedules to squeeze you in that same day.
A good primary care doctor is available 24 hours a day for emergencies and will often be able to tell you if your issue is something that needs immediate evaluation or can wait until the next morning.
Overall, an emergency room costs more and the wait is longer. 2010 stats show that most people waited between 15-60 minutes to see their healthcare providers and paid an estimated $50 for an office visit. In comparison, the average visitor to the ER waited 2-4 hours and the cost was more than $500.
Make sure you and your family receive the best healthcare for the least amount of money by establishing a local primary care physician, PA, or family practitioner, and calling that primary care provider if you are unsure whether or not you should go the emergency room. He or she may not be immediately available, but someone in the office should be available to talk to 24-7, and can advise you. If it’s a life-threatening emergency, go directly to the hospital.