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How to handle a medical emergency

Friday, January 31, 2020

An emergency medical condition is a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) so that a prudent layperson, who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in placing the health of the individual (or, concerning a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy; serious impairment to bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.

The following approach is intended to be a helpful guideline but does not substitute for professional intervention or services:

  1. Is there an immediate threat to life, limb or body function (e.g., chest pain, major laceration, major broken bone, acute poisoning, etc.)? 
    • Call 911 or proceed directly to hospital emergency department.
  2. Can you handle the problem with a telephone call or are you unsure what to do? 
    • Call your primary care physician; keep the number handy (maybe in your cell phone or on the fridge).
  3. If the response to item two is not prompt or is unsatisfactory, a telemedicine option is available. 
    • Commercially available vendors are a phone call away. You now have a telemedicine option through SwiftMD. You must register before needing the service.
  4. If the problem is not immediately threatening but needs face-to-face attention with a health care professional: 
    • Go to an urgent care facility. Services should be rapid and reasonably priced.
  5. If the problem requires a health care professional and other options are not available or are unsatisfactory: 
    • Go to a hospital emergency department.

Unfortunately, emergencies happen at inconvenient times and places. Be prepared – plan ahead and don’t panic. Most emergencies can be handled without undue added stress.

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