It is the middle of the night and the pain won’t go away. Do you think it is a good idea to wait until morning and see a doctor then? Absolutely not! If you feel your health may be in danger, do not wait! Whatever the time of day or day of the week, visit an emergency unit as soon as possible. Together with Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, emergency medicine doctor at the Medicover Hospital, we discuss which symptoms in particular should not be disregarded, as they are the most common reasons for visiting an emergency unit.
Fractures, sprains, dislocations
Statistically speaking, the most common reasons for visiting an emergency unit are various injuries of the osteoarticular system. This is because you can suffer an injury for a very trivial reason such as not warming up before exercising, having the wrong posture while running, rapidly changing direction, or tripping. The most common injuries are sprains, dislocations, and fractures of the ankles, feet, and wrists. These happen quite often, so many people do not take them seriously and try to treat them with home remedies. It is a mistake if you do not undergo the right treatment, because your joint may, for example, become unstable or develop a degenerative disease. What should you do? “Apply a cold compress onto the injured part of the body and then immediately see a doctor to have it examined, following which the doctor will decide what to do next. Sometimes wearing a stabiliser for a few days will suffice but sometimes the limb will need to be immobilised in a plaster cast or in a special splint for a few weeks and then the patient will need to undergo rehabilitation. It depends on the type and seriousness of the injury suffered by the patient,” emphasises Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD, emergency medicine doctor at the Medicover Hospital.
Abdominal pain and diarrhoea
Pain in the abdominal area or the pelvis may indicate minor ailments, such as indigestion or food poisoning, but also more serious health problems that require immediate consultation with a doctor. How can you tell these apart? It all depends on the symptoms. “If you suddenly feel pain in the central part of the stomach radiating from the right side of your body or the back, combined with nausea, vomiting, and gases, don’t wait. You need to get to an emergency unit as soon as possible, as this may be an attack of biliary colic or appendicitis,” says Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD. You should also seek aid if the pain is felt in the right quarter of the stomach and intensifies during the day (which usually indicates hepatitis) or is felt in the lower part of the back and radiates to the groin (which may be an indication of biliary colic or appendicitis). “Nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhoea may also suggest viral gastroenteritis. Such infections typically occur in children, but are also developed by adults and may lead to dangerous dehydration. To avoid this, alleviate the symptoms, and shorten the duration of any unpleasant ailments, it is usually sufficient to see a doctor and take the prescribed medicine,” adds Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD.
The head is particularly exposed to various injuries, which are also some of the most common reasons for visiting the emergency unit. “Head trauma may result, for example, in cuts to the skin. If the wound is big or if the bleeding won’t stop, you need to see a doctor immediately,” says Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD. A subcutaneous hematoma in the superficial tissues of the head (commonly called a bump), usually accompanied by pain and slight dizziness, is another example. Bruising and bleeding are not the only alarming symptoms. Often the most serious injuries, such as skull fractures, intracranial haemorrhage, concussion or contusion of the brain, are difficult to notice with the naked eye. “The key indication of a serious trauma is loss of consciousness after an impact and also resulting confusion, which includes distorted perception of time and location, nausea, or abnormal balance. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should immediately visit an emergency unit,” emphasises Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD.
Acute infection of the upper respiratory tract
Respiratory tract infections typically occur in the winter and late autumn. They consist in congestion and swelling of the bronchial mucous membrane. “They are usually caused by rhinitis and flu viruses. The patient may experience nasal congestion accompanied by a watery mucous secretion, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, sneezing, dry throat, and a slight fever. These symptoms often occur together with difficulty breathing, coughing, sinus pain, and hoarseness,” says Arkadiusz Krakowiecki, MD. “Even if these symptoms seem trivial at the beginning, after a few or several hours they may become tiring and make it impossible to sleep or function normally,” he adds. A disregarded illness may also cause complications, so if the symptoms persist or if they intensify you should not postpone seeing a doctor any further.
Pain in the chest
Symptoms which you should not disregard also include pain, stinging, and tightness in the chest. They may indicate various respiratory, digestive, or cardiovascular disorders, including life‑threatening ones, such as myocardial infarction or acute arterial embolism. If pain appears suddenly or if it is accompanied by dyspnoea, increased heart rate, an irregular pulse, excessive sweating, or dizziness, you should immediately visit an emergency unit.