When Should I Visit the Emergency Room?

emergency room

For most people, the decision to visit an emergency room is not a simple one. Emergency rooms in Indiana are often overcrowded, which means long wait times for sick individuals who would rather be resting at home.

When you are ill, how do you know if you should visit an emergency room or wait to see your primary care physician during regular office hours? There are signs and symptoms you and your family should watch for that will aid in making the right decision for you or your loved one.

Which Symptoms Are Serious Enough for the ER?

Some symptoms are more serious than others, but you should always err on the side of caution if you suspect you may need emergency treatment. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should visit an emergency room immediately:

Shortness of Breath

Wheezing, shallow breathing, and any difficulty breathing require a prompt visit to the emergency room.

Chest Pain

Because chest pain is a potential sign of a heart attack or other cardiovascular issue, you should always visit an ER when you experience it.

Displaced or Open-Wound Fractures

Displaced and broken bones require immediate medical attention as they must be reset. Open-wound fractures also carry the potential for serious infections if not treated immediately.

Fainting or Dizziness

These symptoms are often not cause for concern, but they could indicate a more serious underlying condition. Do not hesitate to seek emergency treatment if you are concerned.

Sudden Numbness or Weakness

Weakness or numbness can sometimes be a symptom of stroke, tumors, back and neck damage, and other serious conditions. These symptoms should be checked by a doctor immediately.

Bleeding That Cannot Be Stopped

A person can only lose so much blood before it becomes life-threatening. A doctor can stop the bleeding and determine the cause of excessive bleeding.

Abdominal Pain

There are many causes of abdominal pain, and not all of them are serious. However, you should visit the emergency room if you experience intense localized abdominal pain.


Adults should visit the emergency room when convulsions accompany any fever. Any fever in a child under 3 months of age warrants a trip to the emergency room.


This is one change in mental status that should be checked by a doctor immediately, but a doctor should check any sudden change in a person’s mental or cognitive health.

Coughing or Vomiting Blood

A very serious symptom, coughing or vomiting blood could indicate an infection, cancer, or problems in the blood vessels located in the lungs.

Severe Headache or Head Injury

Any head injury is considered very serious, particularly if you are taking aspirin or blood thinners.

Blood in the Urine or Bloody Diarrhea

Both of these symptoms can indicate a very serious underlying health condition and should be checked right away.

Sudden Inability to Speak, See, Walk, or Move

These are all signs of a stroke, and medical attention is needed immediately.

Which Symptoms Are Better for an Urgent Care or After-Hours Clinic?

Although they sound like they’re the same thing, urgent care and emergency care are different. Urgent care matters need to be treated immediately, but they are not considered to be life-threatening emergencies.

If you can’t get to your doctor for a same-day appointment, or if your health issue happens after normal business hours, you may opt for an urgent care center. Among the symptoms that may necessitate an urgent care clinic include:

  • Fever that doesn’t include a rash
  • Vomiting or constant diarrhea
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Dehydration
  • Moderate flu-like conditions
  • Simple sprains or strains
  • Small cuts that would require stitches

Keep in mind, if the urgent care medical provider believes you require a higher level of care than they can offer, they should get you to an ER. If you also believe you require a higher level of care, you should promptly get to an ER.

All Are Emergency Rooms Created Equal?

It is important to understand some additional considerations. For instance, not all emergency rooms can deliver the same level of care. Some ERs are better equipped to handle serious trauma than others. The care and treatment you receive also should be within an acceptable standard of care.

Some common emergency room negligence matters our law office sees relate to a failure to properly diagnose; failure to order the appropriate tests; failure to timely treat or admit; or a failure to appropriately refer or transfer a patient.

If the treatment you receive fails to meet the acceptable standard of care, and you suffer harm as a result, you should speak with a knowledgeable Indiana medical malpractice lawyer about your legal rights.

Suffered from Emergency Room Negligence? Contact an Experienced Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney

Patients rely on ER doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide proper care when they need it the most. When ER staff fail to do so, patients should speak to an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer.

If you believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson. Medical malpractice cases are extremely complex, so we are committed to taking all the time necessary to review the details of your claim. We will then explain all of your options in easy-to-understand layman’s terms. Call us today to arrange a free case review with one of our legal team members.

This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in January 2023.

Injured patients and their families need solid legal guidance after a serious medical error. At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we listen attentively to our clients’ questions and concerns. Our goal is to help them move forward after devastating, even fatal medical errors.