Fewer people are going to the hospital for serious medical issues due to fear of contracting COVID-19, but here’s when you need to go.
Although COVID-19 is a serious threat to your health, it’s not the only one. Heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis and other severe health issues and injuries still happen. And if you don’t act quickly to get the medical care you need when they do, you can be putting yourself at risk.
Doctors across the U.S. worry that patients aren’t seeking medical care when they need it right away because they’re afraid to go the ER. There have been numerous stories of people who stay home while experiencing symptoms indicative of a heart attack or stroke instead of going to the hospital due to fear of contracting coronavirus. This delayed treatment often results in serious health consequences. Some are even dying at home because they don’t seek the care they need.
Delaying Treatment Can Jeopardize Your Health
Every minute counts during an emergency. Ignoring chest pain may increase your risk of dying from a heart attack, while convincing yourself that the sudden weakness in your arm is nothing to worry about could cause lasting damage if you’re having a stroke. Even less dramatic symptoms can pose serious health risks. For example, that severe pain in your abdomen may be due to an appendix that is about to rupture or another potentially serious abdominal problem like an aortic aneurysm or bowel obstruction.
Of course, hospitals don’t want patients to come to the emergency department unnecessarily. But there are situations where delaying emergency medical care can be very dangerous to your health. So when should you visit the ER even if you’re worried about coronavirus?
These are some common symptoms that require immediate medical treatment:
- Chest pain, tightness or pressure; difficulty breathing; or other heart attack symptoms
- Severe headache; sudden loss of vision; facial drooping; sudden weakness or numbness in arm or leg (especially on one side); sudden confusion, dizziness or lack of coordination; or other stroke symptoms
- Severe or worsening abdominal pain; or severe abdominal pain along with fever or uncontrollable vomiting
- Serious head or spinal injuries; inability to move limbs; or other major trauma
- Severe allergic reactions
- Uncontrollable bleeding
Other serious and sudden medical issues may also require a trip to the ER. If any symptoms appear life-threatening, call 911. The one thing you shouldn’t do is stay at home and ignore serious symptoms because you’re worried about coming into contact with COVID-19.
What Emergency Rooms Are Doing to Keep You Safe
Hospitals are taking steps to separate non-COVID-19 patients from people who may have the virus. Separate waiting areas, as well as treatment and triage rooms, are designed to reduce the spread of the virus and lower your risk.
Before you even enter the ER, your temperature will probably be taken, and you’ll receive a mask if you’re not already wearing one. You’ll also be asked a number of questions to assess whether you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. In many cases, people that accompany you to the hospital will not be allowed inside with you while you wait for and receive treatment to limit exposure.
Don’t let fear of COVID-19 keep you from receiving the emergency treatment you need. Go to the ER immediately or dial 911 if you have symptoms that may indicate a serious health condition or injury.
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Date Last Reviewed: May 6, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD