Don’t Avoid the ER
Risks from untreated emergent conditions can be far worse than a possible COVID-19 exposure.
By Dr. Charles Muntan
During the pandemic, we have had a steady stream of patients presenting in our ER with possible COVID-19 cases, however we’ve noticed a sharp decline in patients with serious, non-COVID-19 health issues because of the widespread fear of going to the hospital right now. We have a strong message for those patients: “Don’t delay!” Many complications can arise when patients delay treatment for fear of contracting COVID-19. It’s most important to understand that the risk of suffering significant pain, disability, or even death from an untreated medical condition is far greater a risk than the possible exposure to COVID-19.
We want to assure the public that it’s safe to come to the emergency department if you have a serious health need. We’re taking every precaution to keep you safe.
These precautions begin before you even step into the emergency department. If you come to Lakeview Regional’s emergency room, an experienced ER staff member will greet you. He or she will ask if you are having any respiratory problems or a fever. You will see that all patients and ER staff wear masks. We are also utilizing technology such as telemedicine to allow you to speak to the ER physician while maintaining social distancing. Most importantly, we are keeping you separated from other patients. The symptoms you report when you first get here determine the area in which you will be treated. We have an area of the ER that is reserved for everyday patients that come in with broken bones, chest pains or other non-respiratory symptoms and conditions. We are keeping these patients separated from anyone with respiratory conditions.
Some symptoms and conditions that warrant an ER visit, even during the pandemic, include:
Symptoms of a heart attack – Symptoms in both men and women include pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, jaw, neck, or stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; sweating; or lightheadedness. It should be noted, however, that men typically experience the standard chest pain or discomfort, while women may experience more atypical symptoms.
Irregular heartbeat – beats too fast, too slow, or irregular, other symptoms include lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, passing out or sweating.
Symptoms of a stroke – face drooping, arm weakness, leg weakness, and slurred speech are early warning signs. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling, drooling, confusion, leaning to one side, nausea and vomiting, trouble seeing and severe headaches.
Experience a broken bone – Those requiring emergency treatment include heavy bleeding, bone piercing the skin, or bluish color; or broken bone in the head neck, back or chest.
Experience a major trauma or injury – bad car accident, major fall, gunshot wound.
Symptoms of a blood clot – Some aren’t always obvious, but include unilateral leg swelling pain, chest pain, cough or shortness of breath if it spreads to the lungs; chest heaviness, sweating, lightheadedness, or nausea if it is in the heart; or facial weakness, difficulty speaking, or a sudden, severe headache if it’s in the brain.
Symptoms of meningitis – sudden high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, and nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms of appendicitis – worsening abdominal pain in the middle abdomen near the belly button and localized in the right lower quadrant, also accompanied by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, low-grade fever or abdominal swelling.
Experiencing severe allergic reaction – symptoms include rash, itching, abnormal or high-pitched breathing sounds, difficulty breathing or swallowing, heart palpitations, severe swelling, nausea/vomiting/abdominal pain, and even unconsciousness.
Experienced a sexual assault – It is essential to be seen for a medical forensic exam and receive treatment, as well as have the opportunity to involve law enforcement.
Charles Muntan, MD is the emergency services medical director at Lakeview Regional Medical Center, a campus of Tulane Medical Center. He is a board-certified emergency medicine physician with 20 years of experience. Dr. Muntan completed his emergency medicine residency at LSU-Charity Hospital where he was chief resident. He was awarded the HCA Frist Humanitarian Award in 2015 and is a fellow with the American College of Emergency Physicians.