Concerned people go to the emergency room for a variety of ailments. But when is it really necessary to go to the rescue center and in which cases is it sufficient to wait until the doctor’s office opens? Utopia checked with the director of an emergency room.
As a layperson, it is difficult to assess whether an injury or illness needs immediate treatment or whether it can wait a few hours to a few days. For this reason, many patients end up in the emergency services whose complaints do not represent a real emergency. Matthias Klein, head of the central emergency room at the LMU-Klinikum Großhadern, emphasizes that worrying about not being “sick enough” for the emergency room shouldn’t stop anyone from going to an emergency room.
But when is an emergency actually present? When is it enough to wait until the next day to see a general practitioner or a specialist? And where can you get quick and reliable advice in unclear situations? The Munich senior physician answers all these questions in the following paragraphs.
What injuries or symptoms should you come to the emergency room for?
According to Matthias Klein, the emergency call should be made on 112, especially in the event of the following acute symptoms or injuries:
- sudden unconsciousness
- severe breathing difficulties
- chest pain
- pronounced circulatory problems
- vomiting blood
- large amounts of blood in the stool
- severe injury
- sudden onset of paralysis, visual disturbances or speech disturbances
In the case of milder symptoms or complaints that occur less suddenly, however, self-assessment is difficult. In these cases, Klein recommends calling 116 117. There, patients receive a professional, individual assessment around the clock as to whether they should be presented to the emergency room or whether care from general practitioners or on-call doctors from statutory health insurance companies seems sufficient.
Which injuries and symptoms would you rather stay at home with?
Klein thinks that despite the sometimes tense situations in the hospitals, every patient who sees himself as an emergency should go to a contact point. This can either be done via the emergency room itself or (in unclear cases and after an initial assessment by telephone on 116 117) via the medical on-call service. The doctor of neurology emphasizes:
“Under no circumstances should the public discussion about capacity bottlenecks in emergency care lead to patients with acute symptoms not presenting themselves to a doctor because they are concerned that they are not ill enough for an emergency room or a visit to a medical on-call practice.”
However, you should also understand the sometimes long waiting times, adds the doctor. After all, priority must always be given to the emergency rooms: “Patients with life-threatening diseases are always treated there first, even if the number of waiting patients with less threatening diseases is long.”
Despite all caution, there are also cases that are usually not an emergency, explains Klein: “Patients with symptoms that have existed for weeks or months and have not changed fundamentally usually do not have to be treated primarily in the emergency room .”
In these cases, there is often long suffering, which is why the waiting times for resident specialists seem unacceptable. In such a case, however, treatment in the emergency room would not be optimal for either side: “for the patient, since the problems cannot be considered sufficiently and comprehensively, and for the doctor in the emergency room, because he has the feeling that the patient is with his really addressing complaints.”
Taking children and babies to the emergency room
“The same generally applies to children and babies as to adults,” says Klein. In the case of severe acute symptoms, especially those listed above, an emergency call should be made. In less clear-cut situations, the patient service on 116 117 is also recommended here. Only if the symptoms have remained unchanged for many days and weeks, it is probably not an emergency. Then a visit to the pediatrician is a better choice.
In principle, regardless of whether it is for adults or children: If you are unsure, dial 116 117.
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