Emergency physician shares warning signs you need to go the ER

Dr. Adrian Tyndall, Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and a veteran emergency physician, says making the call on whether to go to the ER can be difficult.

"No one wants to go to that emergency department necessarily, unless they truly need to," Tyndall says. 

Also, it can be hard to tell if you are having a true medical emergency.  

So, the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP, came up with a list of 16 reasons to go to the emergency department, 
Among the warning signs:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath 
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain, pressure  
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness 
  • Confusion or changes in mental status 
  • Changes in vision 
  • Any sudden or severe pain

If you think you're having a heart attack, Dr. Tyndall says, call 911 right away.

Same thing for stroke symptoms.

"That might be, you know, weakness on one side of the body, or a loss of sensation in one side of the body, or sometimes blindness or confusion," Dr. Tyndall explains.  ":Oftentimes, people who need to go may not have the capacity to make that decision themselves. So, others around them have to recognize those signs and symptoms and help make that decision, that that's what they need to do, to seek emergency care."

Tyndall says people are sometimes hesitant to call 911. 

When he was working in New York City, Tyndall recalls the story of a woman who was experiencing an asthma attack and having trouble breathing.

He says she should have called an ambulance.

"But, feeling that the wait was too long, she took a cab to get to the hospital," he says.  "Unfortunately, by the time she got to the hospital, she was not alive.  So, there are clear reasons why 911 becomes important to call, because the paramedics that we have are skilled professionals. They can assess you.  They could help determine whether or not you meet the requirements of an emergency condition, and they can get you a destination very quickly."

If you think you need emergency care, Tyndall says, go with your gut.

"I would rather see you than not, absolutely," he says.