With good health habits and a little luck, you may never face a sudden medical crisis. But sooner or later, some of us find ourselves involved in one. Suppose it’s chest pain, stomach cramps or a nasty kitchen accident—what’s the right response? Should you hit red alert or just go see your family doctor?
Although doctors regularly advise, “When in doubt, check it out,” you don’t want to overreact by calling 911 when it’s not needed. On the other hand, precious time could be lost if you hesitate in a true emergency.
A true medical emergency is a situation that is life threatening or could cause permanent harm if not treated immediately. Every minute counts. That’s the difference between cases needing instant, team-managed medical intervention and those your doctor can handle in the office.
Doctors say there are no “wrong” reasons to call 911 in a real emergency, especially if it’s heart related. At such a critical time, don’t drive yourself to the ER or get a taxi or someone else to drive you—it could be dangerous. Plus, you need the expertise and equipment that’s on an ambulance.
Once an ambulance arrives, paramedics will quickly bring the situation under control. You’ll get a rapid physical assessment followed by whatever care is required, such as oxygen, heart monitoring, temporary bandages or splints. After you’re stabilized, you’ll be rushed to the nearest emergency room where a team of doctors and nurses will be standing by.
The following chart lists various emergencies that require a 911 call. Post the list on your refrigerator or by your phone so you can refer to it in case of a medical crisis. And remember, if you are ever in doubt, play it safe and dial 911.