When should I go to the emergency room (ER)?

You should go to the emergency room (ER) when you or your child suffers an injury or a medical emergency. Here are some of the most common conditions treated in the ER:

  • head injuries, including concussions
  • serious cuts
  • broken bones
  • severe burns
  • pneumonia
  • animal bites
  • allergic reactions
  • swallowing foreign objects

If you or a loved one has any condition that appears life-threatening, don’t drive to the ER. Dial 911 and call for an ambulance instead.

Go to the emergency room (ER) for an open injury (such as a laceration) or bleeding that you can't stop with regular pressure.

In terms of a sprain or a strain versus a broken bone: If you can stand on it and walk on it, it's probably okay to wait until you can see your regular doctor. If there's any deformity (looks like it's angulated—not shaped the way it's supposed to be), then seek medical attention right away. If after the injury, you develop significant swelling and start to lose sensation, or feel like your fingers or toes are not getting good blood supply, you should go to the ER.

You should go to the emergency room (ER) for serious medical conditions for which delaying care could cause permanent harm or even death. If you or a family member experiences such a condition, it's important to seek immediate care at an ER or by calling 911. Emergency responders are trained to react quickly and transport you to the facility that best meets your needs.

Visit an ER for:

  • attempted suicide
  • broken bones
  • chest pain
  • children under three months old who need immediate care
  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme pain, especially if the cause is unknown
  • loss of consciousness
  • severe burns
  • severe head pain or injury, including loss of vision
  • suspected drug overdose
  • suspected poisoning
  • uncontrolled breathing

Signs of a possible stroke should alert you to go to the ER, preferably by ambulance:

  • sudden numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement in your face, arm or leg, especially on only one side of your body
  • sudden vision changes
  • sudden trouble speaking
  • sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements
  • sudden problems with walking or balance
  • a sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Continue Learning about Critical Care

Does Your ER Make the Grade? How the U.S. Rates
Does Your ER Make the Grade? How the U.S. Rates
If you have an emergency, you assume that your 911 services and ER will be ready to take care of you, right?  But what if they aren’t? Unfortunately,...
Read More
What type of care can I expect in an emergency room (ER)?
Garden Park Medical CenterGarden Park Medical Center
Emergency room (ER) doctors and other medical personnel are trained to care for unexpected severe il...
More Answers
7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries
7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries
Some of the most common emergency surgeries can also be the riskiest.
Start Slideshow
How Has Critical Care Changed?
How Has Critical Care Changed?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.