• First of all, use good judgment. Become knowledgeable about the signs of serious illnesses which need immediate attention such as heart attacks and strokes, and trust your instincts.
• Call your family doctor and describe to him/her your symptoms. If your doctor feels it’s warranted, then he/she will recommend a trip to the emergency room. If the problem is not urgent enough for a trip to the emergency room, but nevertheless urgent, your doctor will make room in his schedule to see you. Also, a good primary care physician should ideally be available 24/7 or else he/she takes turns covering after-hours on-call responsibilities with other doctors. In other words there are alternatives to getting off-hour or last-minute care instead of going to the emergency room.
• Keep a booklet in your home which is easily accessible which describes the types of symptoms which need emergency room treatment.
Dr. Josyann Abisaab is an emergency room physician practicing in New York City at New York Presbyterian Hospital.