Go to the ER for These Non-COVID but Serious Symptoms - PIH Health

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Published on May 29, 2020

Go to the ER for These Non-COVID but Serious Symptoms

Photo of doctor in front of ERPhoto of doctor in front of ERMany people fear going to the hospital for serious medical issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is important to not ignore health conditions that you do have.

Although COVID-19 is a serious threat to your health, it’s not the only one. Heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis and other severe health issues and injuries still happen. And if you don’t act quickly to get the medical care you need when they do, you can be putting yourself at risk.

Doctors across the U.S. worry that patients aren’t seeking medical care when they need it right away because they’re afraid to go the ER. There have been numerous stories of people who stay home while experiencing symptoms indicative of a heart attack or stroke instead of going to the hospital due to fear of contracting coronavirus. This delayed treatment often results in serious health consequences. Some are even dying at home because they don’t seek the care they need.

“People should not let COVID-19 delay needed medical care,” says Jaime Diaz MD, PIH Health Urgent Care System medical director and chief medical officer for PIH Health Downey Hospital. “While battling the current COVID-19 pandemic is a high priority, PIH Health is also able to safely care for other medical needs. Many members of our community have health issues that are unrelated to COVID-19, and yet they are ignoring symptoms, canceling follow-up imaging tests, or delaying care due to a fear of seeking medical treatments at a physician office, urgent care center or Emergency Department. Delaying needed medical attention can potentially be detrimental to your health.”

Delaying Treatment Can Jeopardize Your Health

Every minute counts during an emergency. Ignoring chest pain may increase your risk of dying from a heart attack, while convincing yourself that the sudden weakness in your arm is nothing to worry about could cause lasting damage if you’re having a stroke. Even less dramatic symptoms can pose serious health risks. For example, that severe pain in your abdomen may be due to an appendix that is about to rupture or another potentially serious abdominal problem like an aortic aneurysm or bowel obstruction.

Of course, hospitals don’t want patients to come to the emergency department unnecessarily. But there are situations where delaying emergency medical care can be very dangerous to your health. So when should you visit the ER even if you’re worried about coronavirus?

These are some common symptoms that require immediate medical treatment:

  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure; difficulty breathing; or other heart attack symptoms
  • Severe headache; sudden loss of vision; facial drooping; sudden weakness or numbness in arm or leg (especially on one side); sudden confusion, dizziness or lack of coordination; or other stroke symptoms
  • Severe or worsening abdominal pain; or severe abdominal pain along with fever or uncontrollable vomiting 
  • Serious head or spinal injuries; inability to move limbs; or other major trauma
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Uncontrollable bleeding 

Other serious and sudden medical issues may also require a trip to the ER. If any symptoms appear life-threatening, call 911. The one thing you shouldn’t do is stay at home and ignore serious symptoms because you’re worried about coming into contact with COVID-19.

What Emergency Rooms Are Doing to Keep You Safe

Hospitals are taking steps to separate non-COVID-19 patients from people who may have the virus. PIH Health Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centers for example, are screening patients prior to entering the building and anyone with a fever, or respiratory or flu-like symptoms is escorted to separate spaces for care, away from other patients. Separate waiting areas, as well as treatment and triage rooms, are designed to reduce the spread of the virus and lower your risk.

Don’t let fear of COVID-19 keep you from receiving the emergency treatment you need. Go to the ER immediately or dial 911 if you have symptoms that may indicate a serious health condition or injury.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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