How do I know if it's an Emergency?

What is a health emergency?

I was talking with a patient not long ago. I was a little alarmed when my patient started describing some of his symptoms he had experienced. The biggest red flag was the patient describing chest pain, especially around his left pec major muscle and shoulder. I then evaluated the patient's blood pressure, pulse, temperature, checked his pupils, and took a thorough history of this incident. No other indicators or symptoms of a heart attack were present. Fortunately for my patient, the chest pains he described turned out to be a displaced rib head which can be extremely painful. The patient had been suffering from a spring cold and allergies and had been coughing and sneezing non-stop for a week. The pain started after a particularly bad coughing fit he had experienced several day prior. Hearing him tell me about experiencing chest pain though really had me alarmed though. 

What are the most serious symptoms designating a medical emergency?

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing or choking
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion, difficulty waking up, or other changes in mental status
  • Severe and/or persistent vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, muscle weakness
  • Head or spine injury
  • Loss of consciousness following head injury
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Unusual abdominal pain
  • Swallowing a poisonous substance

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. 

How do I know if I should go to the doctor if it isn't one of these symptoms?

This is really a question of body mindfulness. Are you in tune with your body? Do you know when your body is feeling good or bad? In general, if you don't have any health complaints or chronic conditions, you should monitor any new condition thoroughly. Take notes. When does your pain occur? What makes it better? What makes it worse? How does it hurt? Where does it hurt? These are all important questions that your health care provider will ask too. 

The next thing is to monitor your condition. Most non-serious conditions will pass within a day or two. Remember to monitor those signs of serious emergency listed above as well as your own condition. If you have waited a day or two and your symptoms are continuing to persist or worsen then it's probably a good time to see your general practitioner or chiropractor! 

What if I hate going to the doctor?

Well, I hope that you don't have that mindset about healthcare providers. As a chiropractor, I strive to make my clinic a place where patients enjoy coming and where they feel welcomed and safe. That said, you should always be aware of your body. If you know that you have some kind of problem and that the symptoms are getting worse, then you should seek medical attention. Don't let your dislike or distrust of doctors prevent you from getting the medical care that you need.

But what if I can't afford to go to the doctor?

This is a serious problem for many Americans, and sadly it is one that I cannot easily answer. However, there are many small clinics like Urgent Care and those found in some drug stores or that will see patients on a cash basis. However, if you are truly ill and exhibiting any of the emergency signs listed above, you should call 911 and/or get to the hospital immediately. Hospitals have hardship plans and will work out a plan to help you afford your healthcare, often at a greatly reduced cost. You just don't want to overuse this service in the event of a non-emergency. 

I hope that this little overview has helped remind you of a few important details about your own healthcare, and how to help watch over others around you.

Yours in health,

Dr. William