According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 136 million Americans visit an emergency room (ER) every year for everything from injury-related emergencies like broken bones, cuts and burns to unexplained illnesses like chest, abdominal and head pain. But how do you know when it is time to go to the ER? It is a question many people ask themselves when faced with a personal emergency.

Dr. Michael Patch, a board-certified emergency room physician at AdventHealth Tampa, has seen a wide variety of emergencies.

“When you practice emergency medicine, you see people at their most vulnerable point. The fear and uncertainty of what to do in an emergency can be as bad as the pain or illness you’re feeling,” said Dr. Patch.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the following signs and symptoms constitute emergencies that may require medical attention:

Head injury with fainting or confusion; injury to neck or spine, especially with loss of feeling or inability to move; trouble breathing; passing out; fainting; dizziness or weakness; severe chest pain or pressure; pain in the arm or jaw; sudden unusual or bad headache; suddenly unable to speak, see, walk or move; sudden weakness on one side of face or body; seizure that lasts 3-5 minutes; possible broken bone; loss of movement; coughing or throwing up blood; severe pain anywhere on the body; severe burn; severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing; swelling; hives; high fever that does not get better with medicine; and throwing up or loose stools that do not stop.

When it comes to the question of whether to go to the ER, Dr. Patch’s advice is simple. “Always err on the side of caution. If you think you or a loved one may need emergency medical care, call 911 immediately.”

AdventHealth Tampa’s unique Doc1stER℠ process ensures that you are seen by a board-certified emergency medicine physician first. This concept pushes typical ER points of contact, like registration, to the back of the ER experience, keeping the focus on treating your emergency.

AdventHealth Tampa is building a new ER in Brandon, opening in early 2020. For more information, visit or call 971-6000. AdventHealth Tampa is located at 3100 E. Fletcher Ave. in Tampa.

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