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Don't delay emergency care because of COVID-19

A man grabs his chest in pain.

If you had chest pain, would the COVID-19 pandemic make you think twice about seeking care at the emergency room (ER)?

ER visits for serious incidents like heart attack and stroke declined sharply after the pandemic began. But that doesn't mean people were having fewer of those emergencies.

Doctors are concerned that people having severe health problems delayed care because they were worried about catching the coronavirus if they went to the ER. Or they were worried about putting a strain on a healthcare system that seemed overloaded with COVID-19 patients.

Why you shouldn't wait

It's dangerous to delay needed medical care. Every minute is crucial when someone is having a heart attack, stroke or other emergency. Getting fast treatment can prevent disability or death.

You can rest assured that hospitals are taking steps to reduce contact between people with COVID-19 symptoms and people with other emergencies. So if you think you're having a medical crisis, call 911 right away.

What is an emergency?

The American College of Emergency Physicians lists these warning signs and symptoms of a medical emergency:

  • Bleeding that won't stop.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Change in mental status.
  • Chest pain.
  • Choking.
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood.
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness.
  • Feeling suicidal or homicidal.
  • Head or spine injury.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Injury due to a serious motor vehicle accident, burns or smoke inhalation, nearly drowning, a deep or large wound, or other serious injuries.
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body.
  • Sudden dizziness, sudden muscle or general weakness, or sudden change in vision.
  • Ingestion of a poisonous substance.
  • Severe abdominal pain or pressure.

Call 911 or seek emergency help right away if someone is experiencing any of the above.

Symptoms not so severe?

If it's not an emergency, maybe it's something you could take care of with a virtual visit. Learn more about the benefits of telemedicine.

Reviewed 5/18/2020

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