Sometimes it’s necessary, and sometimes it’s not, but it is certainly true that almost all of us have been to the emergency room at some point. Maybe it was a broken leg, or the fear of one. Perhaps it was a poisoning or a burn. Whatever it was, we are certainly glad for the existence and accessibility of the ER, and we all want them to run as efficiently as possible.
Unfortunately, many times people don’t know the difference between a good reason to go to the ER, and a “not such a good reason” to go. The more people can tell the difference, the more efficiently emergency rooms can help patients.
Here are the five most common reasons people visit the ER:
1. Stomach pain, cramps, and spasms- Severe stomach pain can be frightening. It is no wonder that this is the most common reason for visits to the ER. Stomach pain can also pose a more serious danger than simple food poisoning, so this is a reasonable reason to visit the ER.
2. Chest pain and related symptoms- Since chest pains can mean the possibility of having a heart attack most people rush to the ER if they have this symptom.
3. Fevers are the third most common reason for trips to the ER, but on the first day of a fever this is almost always unnecessary. There are many reasons for people to exhibit a fever, most of which are not a cause for concern. However, fever can be a sign of danger if it’s present for three days, or if the fever is very high.
4. Cough- There are many reasons a person can develop a cough, but a cough is generally harmless, meaning it does not present a threat to life in and of itself. Coughs should be checked by a doctor, especially persistent coughs, but a trip to the ER is unnecessary.
An exception is if the cough is combined with blood or other symptoms. In these cases, a trip to the emergency room is warranted.
5. Headache- Head pain can be quite severe, and if it is people will go to the ER to get quick relief. But if your headache is not a recurrent symptom, it is most likely just a plain headache. If the only symptom is a severe headache, the doctor will want to run some tests to determine what is wrong.
Dr. Josyann Abisaab is an emergency room physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.