5 Reasons to Race to The Emergency Department (and 5 Reasons to Skip)

Submitted by Dr. Ben Fickenscher on September 16, 2019

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Is it a Life or Death Situation?

Determining whether or not to go to the Emergency Department could be a life or death decision. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what qualifies as a true emergency. Skip the long wait and save emergency care for those in traumatic situations.

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If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, seeking care is vitally important:

When you’re sick or in pain, it feels urgent--that’s only human.

But it’s better to skip a visit to the Emergency Department if:

  • You are experiencing a common virus, especially a cold
  • A work note is needed for an absence
  • You have a minor headache
  • You believe you have pink eye (itchy, not painful)
  • You are vomiting or having diarrhea that is short-lived and not associated with significant dehydration or other worrisome symptoms (especially if other members of the family have similar symptoms)

Seeking unneeded care can delay treatment for those experiencing a true emergency. It can also result in higher health care costs for you, as well as potentially hazardous over-treatment.

If you want to see a doctor for more minor symptoms, such those listed in the second section, I recommend that you visit an urgent care center or call your primary care provider to keep your wait times and costs to a minimum. 

Dr. Ben Fickenscher is an emergency medicine physician at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center's Emergency Department. He practices with Chesapeake Emergency Physicians, where he also serves as Managing Partner. He received his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. and holds a degree in biology from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.