When to Visit the Emergency Department
When to visit the hospital emergency room (ER)
Making quick decisions can be tough. But there's no time to hesitate in a medical emergency. Even a brief delay could put a person's health at greater risk. That's why it's important to know when to visit the emergency department.
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, all the following are warning signs of an emergency:
- Chest pain lasting two minutes or more
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Sudden or severe pain
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Trouble breathing
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Confusion or other change in mental state
- Trouble speaking
- Changes in vision
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
If you aren't sure a situation is an emergency, it's best to err on the side of caution. Don't worry that you might be wasting the time of emergency department staff. You could be saving a life.
Every minute counts: Call 911
If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. Do not drive to the hospital.
By calling 911 at the first sign of symptoms, you buy yourself time. Plus, you give emergency medical personnel the opportunity to start care on-site and en route to the hospital.
The clock is ticking, and every minute counts. The longer you wait, the greater your risk for losing heart muscle, brain cells, and quality of life.
When to call 911
Instead of driving to the emergency department, call 911 when:
- The person's condition seems life threatening or could get worse on the way to the hospital
- Moving the person might cause further injury
- You can't get to the emergency department quickly.
If you call 911:
- Do your best to speak clearly and calmly.
- Be ready to provide information, including the location and the nature of the problem.
- You've been in a car crash, look for street names or highway markers so paramedics can find you quickly.
- Stay on the line until the dispatcher says it's okay to hang up. More information may be needed.
If you're waiting for an ambulance, do what you can to provide first aid. If a person isn't breathing or doesn't have a pulse, begin rescue breathing or CPR. If a person is bleeding, apply a clean cloth or sterile bandage along with direct pressure.
Be prepared for an emergency
Be better prepared for an emergency by following these steps:
- Post emergency numbers near each phone in your home.
- Program an in-case-of-emergency number into your cell phone under "ICE." This can be used to reach a friend or family member if you are unable to speak for yourself. Your emergency contact may be able to provide medical information that can help doctors treat you more effectively.
- Teach children how to make an emergency call in case you're injured or ill.
- Keep a list of medicines your family uses. Note any allergies to medicines.
- Take classes in first aid and CPR.
- Keep first-aid kits in your home and in your vehicles.
Don't hesitate to visit the emergency department if you think a situation is life-threatening. Methodist Health System emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Methodist Health System staff can quickly determine the best course of action.
Medical care when it's not an emergency
Sometimes a health issue needs attention but isn't an emergency. Then the Methodist Family Health Centers located in your neighborhood can help. They treat a broad range of conditions including colds, flu, fever, earaches, rashes, cuts, sprains, sports injuries, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic illnesses. In addition to treating the illness, the physicians work with the patients to answer their questions and concerns and believe in getting to know their patients and their family.
Most patients can be seen the same day; however, appointments are encouraged. Visit the Methodist Family Health Centers Web site to find a Methodist Family Health Center near you.
Find a physician
Search our online physician directory or call 214-947-0000 or 1-877-637-4297 for help finding an independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Health System.
Visit the online health encyclopedia to read more about:
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.