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Medical Emergency Or Mishap?

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

You shoveled snow this morning, felt something "pop" in your back and now you're sore. Your doctor's office is closed. Do you try to seek medical attention right away or wait until the morning when your doctor is in?

"It's not always easy to determine when to go to your physician's office, an urgent care center or a hospital emergency center," says William Anderson, M.D., chairman of Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, Troy. An expanded Emergency Center is expected to open at Beaumont, Troy later this year (see rendering, upper right).

Emergency Care

While there are no hard-and-fast rules defining a "true emergency," the American College of Emergency Physicians encourages a visit to the ER for any of the following:

* difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* chest or abdominal pain or pressure
* fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
* changes in vision
* confusion or changes in mental status
* any sudden or severe pain
* uncontrolled bleeding
* severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
* coughing or vomiting blood
* suicidal feelings
* difficulty speaking
* fever with convulsions or extreme fever in children

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Urgent Conditions

Some conditions that can be treated by a family physician include:

* earaches
* minor cuts where bleeding is controlled
* sprains and other strains of muscles and joints
* rashes and minor swelling
* most fevers
* minor burns

After-Hours Clinics

An after-hours clinic is a good option if your doctor's office isn't open and you have:

* cough, cold or sore throat
* fever or flu-like symptoms
* earache
* rash, skin irritations
* mild asthma
* stomachache
* onset of back pain
* possible infection