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Immediate care or ER? What to do in a medical emergency

If you or a loved one, friend, or coworker seem to be in serious distress, you could be dealing with a medical emergency. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know if you or the person you’re with can go to an immediate care clinic for treatment or if you should take them straight to the emergency room.

In this blog article, we’ll share what to look for to determine if the situation at hand is a medical emergency and what your next steps should be.

patient getting care in the ER during a medical emergency

How do you know if your situation is a medical emergency?

It’s normal to have some bleeding from a minor cut in the kitchen or moderate pain after straining your back. But pain or bleeding can also be signs of a medical emergency if they are severe or excessive.

That’s why it’s essential to know if the situation you’re dealing with is an emergency or something that you can treat at home or with help from an expert at an immediate care clinic.

If a child in your care, an adult you’re with, or you are experiencing a true medical emergency, it’s vital to get them to the emergency room right away.

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the signs include:

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Breathing problems (difficulty breathing, shortness of breath)
  • Change in mental status (unusual behavior or confusion)
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Feelings of wanting to commit suicide or murder
  • Head or spine injury
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden or severe injury (car accident, burns or smoke inhalation, near drowning, deep or large wound, etc.)
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
  • Swallowing a poisonous substance
  • Severe abdominal pain or pressure

Find an ER near you

When should I call 911?

Call 911 to get an ambulance to your location right away if the person having the medical emergency is in any of the following situations:

  • The person’s condition is life-threatening (like a heart attack or stroke)
  • The person’s condition could become life-threatening on the way to the hospital
  • Moving the person could cause further injury (for example, a neck injury sustained during a car accident)
  • The person needs the skills or equipment of paramedics
  • You will not be able to get to the hospital quickly on your own

What about bleeding?

Not all incidents of bleeding are medical emergencies. You can usually treat minor cuts or scrapes with first aid at home, but excessive bleeding is not normal.

Call 911 if you notice any of the following:

  • You’re unable to control the bleeding, even after applying first aid
  • There is an object inside the wound, or it appears to be deep
  • You can see tissue or bone
  • There is a large amount of blood loss
  • The injured person feels unwell or dizzy or looks pale

What to do (and not do) in a medical emergency

How you react in an emergency can have a real impact on the situation and getting yourself or the person you’re with the care they need. Your actions could even save someone’s life.

Here are a few dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t panic
  • Do stay calm and call 911
  • Do start first aid, CPR, or rescue breathing if you’ve been trained in the proper technique
  • Don’t move the person unless absolutely necessary to keep them safe from further harm
  • Do place a semiconscious or unconscious person in the recovery position until help arrives

If you’re not CPR certified, you can perform hands-only CPR, which consists of just two steps:

  1. Call 911 (or have someone else call)
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the collapsed person’s chest

If you’re still not sure if the situation you’re dealing with is an emergency or not, err on the side of caution—call 911 and explain to the operator what is happening.

When should I go to an immediate care clinic?

Sometimes, an illness or injury may need to be looked at quickly but doesn’t necessarily require a trip to the emergency room. This is where immediate care or a walk-in clinic can be a good option.

You can visit an immediate care clinic to get treatment for conditions like:

  • Fever
  • Ear or eye pain
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild asthma
  • Flu
  • Allergies or mild allergic reaction
  • Back pain
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Minor burns, cuts, scrapes, or bruises
  • Skin rash

Get immediate care at LMH’s Express Medical Center

Minor injuries and illnesses can strike anytime, even when your doctor’s office is unavailable and the problem isn’t a medical emergency.

At Logansport Memorial Hospital’s Express Medical Center, our team of experienced providers offers high-quality care for a wide range of conditions, including asthma, back pain, burns, coughs, sore throats, sinus problems, cuts, bruises, ear pain, eye irritation, fever, flu, skin rashes, and more.

Get the care you need, when you need it, with no appointment necessary. Walk-ins are welcome at:

Express Medical Center
3400 East Market Street
at Cass Plaza
(574) 722-9633

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TOPICS: Emergency