The Waiting Game

Depending on how a person's injury is prioritized -- with more life-threatening cases always receiving treatment first, anecdotal estimates for waits in the ER can range from minutes to 3.5 hours [source: Bowman]. Wait times are likely to increase in the future since ER visits are on the rise and emergency departments are declining [source: CDC]. One analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that less than one-fifth of patients receive treatment within 15 minutes of arriving at the ER [source: CDC].

ER doctors see more headache cases than you'd expect.

While headaches usually don't require emergency attention, patients often find themselves in enough pain to show up at ERs. Cases include chronic migraines, which may require further testing with referred neurologists. Although rarely, headaches can be signs of more serious illness such as "meningitis, cerebral hemorrhaging or a brain tumor," according to emergency doctors [source: American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation].

The thing with headaches is they can coincide with patients feeling sick to their stomachs and vomiting, which can cause them to suspect having a more serious condition. Fortunately, ERs have special imaging equipment that can peer into patients' brains to see if there's anything unusual or worth investigating.

For more resources on emergency care and reasons people use it, check out the following page.