To go or not to go to the Emergency Room? For many of seniors, this is a real question when sickness or injury flares up. It is always better to err on the side of caution. With some older people, a minor infection, cold or a fall can turn serious quickly. Here are three more “must go” scenarios:
• You suddenly feel severe pain.
A stab of pain in your chest, abdomen, head or elsewhere often signals something serious. If it is your chest, it could mean a heart attack, especially for seniors. Emergency experts want to see most people with chest pain (especially if it lasts longer than five minutes and is paired with shortness of breath), sweatiness and nausea or vomiting. Unfortunately, many heart attack victims are notoriously reluctant to seek care.
Another emergency pain issue would be a brutal headache. This kind of headache may be a symptom of a brain aneurysm. Powerful abdominal pain is also very serious, as it can signal appendicitis or an abdominal aneurysm.
• You feel numbness, weakness or experience a lack of mobility.
These symptoms are especially dangerous if they occur on one side of your body. These symptoms, along with temporary vision loss and a powerful headache, are the main warning signs of a stroke.
Signs of a stroke can be experienced for one hour and disappear for the next 23, only to return. Strokes happen when oxygen is unable to get to the brain due to a blocked blood vessel and often that blood vessel is not fully blocked.
Most strokes occur in people over age 65, so if any of these symptoms arise, please seek help immediately. If possible, have someone gather all of your prescriptions to take to the ER, as drug interactions are a huge problem for seniors getting emergency care.
• You have a chronic condition that worsens.
If you have a chronic condition like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, kidney disease, emphysema or serious allergies that begin to become more severe, go to the ER. People with these kinds of conditions should always know the difference between a mild worsening, which may warrant a trip to their general practitioner, and something that needs urgent attention. An asthma attack, very low blood sugar, a severe seizure or a bee sting when you are allergic to stings each benefit from the rapid care you can get at an ER.