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Preparing for a trip to the emergency department

Riddle Hospital February 3, 2015 Wellness Articles

Chances are, whether you’re caring for a parent, partner, or child, you’ve made a panicked visit to the emergency room.

“A visit to the emergency department can be a hectic process, especially when you’re worried about your health or the health of a loved one,” says Steven Moonblatt, MD, emergency medicine physician at Riddle Hospital. “By taking a few precautionary measures and anticipating some of the questions you’ll have and questions you’ll be asked in an emergency, you can save yourself time and trouble.”

Although emergencies like illnesses and injuries are impossible to anticipate, you can better prepare for your next trip to the emergency department with these tips.

Know where to go

Chances are, there’s an urgent care center in your neighborhood, and it might even be closer than the closest emergency department. While these centers are ideal for issues like ear infections, stomach ailments, and muscle aches and sprains, you should always head to the emergency department for life-threatening conditions, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Major trauma
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uncontrolled or excessive bleeding
  • Severe headache or burns
  • Poisoning
  • Behavioral emergencies, such as suicide or homicidal feelings

In situations like these, play it safe and head to your local emergency department. Not sure what the difference is between urgent care and the ED? Check out our list of the differences between the two.

Create a list of emergency contacts

Whether you live alone or with others, it’s important to have a list of emergency contacts prepared and accessible in case of an emergency. That means the numbers and addresses of local emergency responders, as well as friends or family.

“Most cell phones now allow you to identify contacts who you’d like to easily reach in the event of an emergency,” says Dr. Moonblatt. “Whether it’s stored in your phone or taped on the refrigerator, make sure this information is easily accessible in case you need help right away.”

Prepare an emergency room kit

When you get to the emergency department, whether it’s for yourself or someone else, you’ll be required to have key information about yourself and your health. Prepare an emergency room kit for you and members of your family that you can easily grab on the way to the hospital. Your kit should include:

  • Identification, including a photocopy of your driver’s license and health insurance card
  • A change of clothing and toiletries
  • A list of current medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Names and contact information for physicians treating you or your family member
  • Legal papers about you or your family member’s health care wishes, including a living will and power of attorney

Having this information ready to grab and go in the event of an emergency can not only put your mind at ease; it also ensures the emergency department staff has the information they need to administer the proper treatment based on your health.

Riddle Hospital's new Emergency Department includes nearly double the space, 24 private treatment rooms, and a Rapid Evaluation Unit for faster treatment of less serious injuries. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s emergency care services.