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How to recognise a health emergency

It can be hard to know what you should do when your medical symptoms suddenly become worse. Here’s a basic guide.
Sometimes, illness or injury can strike when you least expect it. You could end up with severe stomach pain. Perhaps your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever. Maybe your partner suddenly experiences chest discomfort.

These kinds of situations can seem overwhelming and frightening, and you may be concerned for your loved one or yourself. Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether to go to hospital, wait or call an ambulance. What should you do? Go on Intclinics to find your nearest ER.

What is an emergency?

The Ambulance Service of NSW recommends that you call 000 if any of these symptoms are present:

Chest pain or tightness
A sudden appearance of weakness, numbness, or paralysis in the face, arm, or leg
breathing difficulties
uncontrollable bleeding
Unexpected or sudden fall
Unexplained fitting in adults
Children especially are at risk for severe burns.

Also, get emergency help if your health problem is severe, new, and urgent. It is safer to call 000 instead of driving to hospital if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. It’s safer and sometimes paramedics will be able start treating you as soon as they arrive.

Associate Professor Paul Middleton from Liverpool Hospital, is the deputy director for emergency medicine. He recommends that children go to the emergency room (ED) if they feel unwell.

Are you feeling short of breath?
You become more lethargic and drowsy.
Aren’t interconnected
It is important to not drink or pee, especially in young children.
A fever is a persistent or serious condition. Any temperature above 38° Celsius is considered fever.

What to do when you’re not sure

If time is not an issue and you are not sure what your condition or injury is, healthdirect can help. They offer a 24-hour online symptom checker as well as advice via telephone with registered nurses. They will advise you whether to see your GP or manage your condition at home.

Dr Abhi, spokesperson for Royal Australian College of General Practices, said that minor allergic reactions, minor injury to muscles or joints, and small household mishaps such as cuts and lacerations, can usually be managed by GPs.

Can you put off a fever, vomiting, and pain attack in the middle of the evening? Or should you go to the emergency room immediately? It depends.

“Adults may replace their fluids. If fever doesn’t resolve with paracetamol, they can try a cool wash down. But a temperature above 40 or 41 degrees can be dangerous,” says Dr Kenneth Moroney.

Call healthdirect to get advice for children or check their list on warning signs of vomiting and fever.

If the pain is in short waves, it may not be so serious. Assoc Prof Middleton recommends that patients who experience constant, severe or worsening pain (e.g., headaches, chest pain) should visit a hospital.

He says that there are some instances where an ED visit is not appropriate.

“Emergency departments exist for emergencies. They’re not there to treat a chronic condition you’re suffering from or get some reassurance.

“If you think it’s an urgent or a potential crisis, then that’s fine. However some people use EDs for convenience.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (9.3%) of the 7.8 Million emergency department visits in 2016-17 was for non-urgent conditions.

Other options than the ED

Consider these options if you have a health issue that isn’t urgent, but still requires prompt treatment.

A general practice that accepts walk ins.
Many hospitals have urgent care centres. These are usually 24-hour, walk-in centres that provide care for injuries or illnesses that need immediate (but not emergency) attention.


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