10 Reasons Not to Go to the ER


1
Fever
Just as with a cold, if your fever hits 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius), you’ve reached emergency territory. © AtnoYdur/iStockphoto

It's normal for your body temperature to fluctuate throughout the day, and you'd also consider it natural to run a fever if you've come down with the flu. Having a fever means your body is fighting an infection of some sort or another, from the mundane to the severe. On one hand, it could be a symptom of a cold or flu, while on the other hand it could be an early symptom of cancer. A fever may or may not need to be evaluated by a doctor, and even those that rise a little high may not be life-threatening emergencies — but how do you know?

OK, let's first look at the baseline. Normally a body's thermostat is set to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), and an elevated temperature isn't considered a fever until it rises above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) [source: ACEP]. Most fevers won't last longer than 24 to 48 hours, and most can be treated at home with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Fevers that rise above 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) or that linger longer than 72 hours should be evaluated by your doctor. You may require antibiotics or at the very least additional testing to tease out the fever's source. Fevers registering 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or higher should be considered an emergency. Most fevers won't rise above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius), but brain damage is known to occur when the body's temperature climbs above 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) [source: Kaneshiro et al.].

Additionally, fevers sometimes occur alongside symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing — two potentially life-threatening conditions that need immediate evaluation. And sometimes high fevers may cause convulsions, called febrile seizures; this is most common in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, with a fever of at least 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsius). Anyone who has a seizure should be examined by a doctor, and any seizure lasting longer than 10 minutes needs immediate attention [source: NINDS].

Author's Note: 10 Reasons Not to Go to the ER

Urgent care centers are able to handle several common conditions often seen in ER waiting rooms, such as sprained ankles, fevers or UTIs. Yet I think a lot of us overlook the benefits urgent care centers offer, at least when they're available to us (not everyone has access to local alternative care centers, or one that's open during the wee hours). We automatically weigh our three options: whether the condition is minor enough to grab a bandage or a few aspirin and go about the day; whether it's bothersome or scary enough to call for a doctor's appointment; or whether it's a life-and-death situation that needs the ER. The urgent care center option needs to be added in there somewhere.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). "Cat and Dog Bites." April 14, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/pets-animals/cat-and-dog-bites.html
  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). "First Aid: Burns." December 2010. (March 1, 2015) http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/first-aid-burns.html
  • American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) — Emergency Care for You. "ER 101." (March 1, 2015) http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/ER101/
  • American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) — Emergency Care for You. "What to do in a Medical Emergency." (March 1, 2015) http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/
  • American Lung Association (ALA). "Facts About the Common Cold." 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/facts-about-the-common-cold.html
  • American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). "How to Care for a Sprained Ankle." (March 1, 2015) http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How%20to%20Care%20for%20a%20Sprained%20Ankle.aspx
  • Analyte Physicians Group "FAQ." Sexual Health. 2015. (March 1, 2015) https://www.sexualhealth.com/faq/
  • Barron, Natania. "5 Emergency Room Myths Busted." BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina. April 30, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://blog.bcbsnc.com/2014/04/5-emergency-room-myths-busted/
  • Bass, Pat F. III and Tennille Dozier. "Lacerations Without Stitches." University of Rochester Medical Center. (March 1, 2015) http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02830
  • Blue Ridge Healthcare. "Save the ER for a True Emergency." Jan. 11, 2006. (March 1, 2015) http://www.blueridgehealth.org/in_the_news/health-pages/save-er-for-real-emergencies.html
  • Brody, Jane E. "Save Emergency Rooms for Emergencies." The New York Times. April 26, 2010. (March 1, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/health/27brod.html
  • Cassoobhoy, Arefa. "Sexual Conditions Health Center - Most Common STDs for Women and Men." WebMD. Aug. 11, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/most-common-stds-men-women
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "One in Five Americans Report Visiting Emergency Room at Least Once in the Past Year." June 11, 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0530-emergency-room.html
  • Cole, Gary W. "Rash 101: Introduction to Common Skin Rashes." MedicineNet. Feb. 17, 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.medicinenet.com/rash/article.htm
  • Davis, Charles Patrick. "Fever in Adults." eMedicineHealth. Feb. 17, 2015. (March 1, 2015 http://www.emedicinehealth.com/fever_in_adults/article_em.htm
  • Dhar, A. Damian. "Folliculitis and Skin Abscesses." Merck Manuals. July 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin_disorders/bacterial_skin_infections/folliculitis_and_skin_abscesses.html
  • Doerr, Steven. "Skin Abscess Overview." eMedicineHealth. May 9, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.emedicinehealth.com/abscess/article_em.htm
  • Edlich, Richard F. et al. "Thermal Burns." Medscape. Sept. 18, 2013. (March 1, 2015 http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1278244-overview
  • Fields, Lisa. "Children's Health — 5 Serious Symptoms in Children to Never Ignore." WebMD. Nov. 11, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/children/guide/serious-symptoms-in-children
  • Foresight Family Physicians. "Three Reasons Not to Go to the Emergency Room." (March 1, 2015) http://www.ffpdoc.com/three-reasons-not-to-go-to-the-emergency-room/
  • Garth, Alisha Perkins et al. "Animal Bites in Emergency Medicine." Medscape. Jan. 26, 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/768875-overview
  • Gholipour, Bahar. "Hidden STD Epidemic: 110 Million Infections in the US." LiveScience. Oct. 6, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/48100-sexually-transmitted-infections-50-states-map.html
  • HealthResearchFunding.org (HRF). "Difference Between 3rd and 4th Degree Burns." Oct. 28, 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://healthresearchfunding.org/difference-between-3rd-and-4th-degree-burns/
  • Kaneshiro, Neil K. et al. "Fever." National Institutes of Health — MedlinePlus. Feb. 12, 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003090.htm
  • Lambers, Kaj et al. "Incidence of Patients with Lower Extremity Injuries Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments by Anatomic Region, Disease Category and Age." Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. Vol. 470, No. 1. Pages 284-290. January 2012. (March 1,2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3237997/
  • Mayo Clinic. "Animal Bites: First Aid." Nov. 25, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-animal-bites/basics/art-20056591
  • Mayo Clinic. "Sprain: First Aid." March 20, 2012. (March 1, 2015) http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-sprain/basics/art-20056622
  • YouBeauty.com. "When is a rash an emergency?" Mother Nature Network. May 14, 2012. (March 1, 2015) http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/when-is-a-rash-an-emergency
  • Murray, Alexandra. "Deadly Rashes Not to Miss in the ED." American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Vol. 4, No. 5. Feb. 1, 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/804255
  • National Institutes of Health — MedlinePlus. "Understanding, Treating, and Preventing STDs/Questions to Ask your Health Care Professional." Vol. 3, No. 4. Pages 18-19. Fall 2008. (March 1, 2015) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/fall08/articles/fall08pg18-19.html
  • National Institutes of Health — National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). "Questions and Answers about Sprains and Strains." NIH Publication No. 12–5328. January 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Sprains_Strains/default.asp
  • National Institutes of Health — National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). "Febrile Seizures Fact Sheet." NIH Publication No. 12-3930. Feb. 23, 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/detail_febrile_seizures.htm
  • Olisemeka, Chinedum. "Should You Go to the Emergency Room? Signs that You Shouldn't Wait." Physicians Now Urgent Care. (March 1, 2015) https://www.myphysiciansnow.com/go-emergency-room-signs-shouldnt-wait/
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "What We're Learning: Reducing Inappropriate Emergency Department Use Requires Coordination with Primary Care." Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) Issue Brief: Emergency Department Overuse. September 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2013/rwjf407773
  • Schmitz, G. et al. "The Treatment of Cutaneous Abscesses: Comparison of Emergency Medicine Providers' Practice Patterns." Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. Vol. 14, No. 1. Pages 23-28. February 2013. (March 1, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23447753
  • Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital — Cambridge Foot and Ankle Clinic. "Injury of the Ankle Ligaments." (March 1, 2015) http://www.cambridgefootandankle.com/ankle-ligaments.shtml
  • Stoppler, Melissa Conrad. "Bee Sting Treatment." MedicineNet. June 12, 2012. (March 1, 2015) http://www.medicinenet.com/bee_sting_treatment/views.htm
  • Talan, David A. "Managing Skin Abscesses in the MRSA Era." Physician's Weekly. Aug. 22, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.physiciansweekly.com/managing-skin-abscesses-mrsa/
  • WebMD. "First Aid & Emergencies." 2015. (March 1, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/first-aid/
  • WebMD. "Skin Rashes: Home Treatment — Topic Overview." (April 4, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/skin-rashes-home-treatment-topic-overview
  • Wedro, Benjamin. "Dog Bite Treatment." MedicineNet. April 4, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://www.medicinenet.com/dog_bite_treatment/article.htm
  • Woolston, Chris. "Fever in Adults." HealthDay. March 11, 2014. (March 1, 2015) http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/infectious-diseases-26/misc-infections-news-411/fever-in-adults-645156.html

UP NEXT

Despite Common Myth, Ambulance Companies Can't Avoid Certain Neighborhoods

Despite Common Myth, Ambulance Companies Can't Avoid Certain Neighborhoods

HowStuffWorks looks at the evolution of ambulance services and why the idea that they don't pick up people in some neighborhoods is incorrect.


More to Explore