Some folks are afraid to call 911 because they are unsure whether their medical condition or complaint rises to the level of an emergency. Calling a physician for advice is a good place to start, but physicians aren't always readily available and many will end up telling patients to call 911 anyway.
There are specific conditions that should not wait for a call back from the family doctor before calling 911. These medical conditions are time sensitive -- waiting too long could have serious consequences, even death. Additionally, there are protocols in place to ease the transition from the ambulance to the hospital emergency department. A family physician will probably not have the tools necessary to treat life-threatening events in his or her office.
When experiencing one of the following conditions, call 911 immediately:
- Bloody diarrhea with weakness
- Chest pain (see heart attack)
- Coma (unresponsive victim)
- Drug overdose
- Heart attack
- Heat stroke
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden slurred speech
- Sudden blindness (see stroke)
- Uncontrolled nosebleed
- Vomiting blood
- Serious Burns
- Bleeding that will not stop
- Bleeding with weakness (shock)
- Broken bones visible through an open wound
- Broken leg
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. It's important to understand that emergencies are defined by the victim; if you feel you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.