Remember, in case of an Emergency dial triple zero (000) for Police, Fire and Ambulance
You may say they are the unsung heroes in medical care; The Emergency Department and it’s team are always there when you urgently need them, caring for urgent care patients – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You rush into the Emergency Department and get called in to see the triage nurse who will access your condition and begin your emergency care.
You then get seen by the emergency medicine doctors and nurses who begin your treatment.
But when do you really need to go and visit the Emergency Department?
What are the signs?
According to the Northern Sydney Local Health District, an emergency is defined as ‘when an illness or injury is serious or life threatening’ – but what does this mean exactly?
Here are the 10 reasons when to visit your local ED:
1. Chest pain or tightness
Crushing chest pain in the upper body can be a sign of a heart attack and when felt is something to be taken seriously – especially if it is worsening.
It is highly recommended that you go to hospital immediately if accompanied with other symptoms, including:
- a cold sweat,
- dizziness or nausea.
Another telling sign that you or a loved one may be experiencing a heart attack is if the pain is spreading to your jaw or down your left arm.
Coronary Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia* with 1 in 5 Australians dying from the disease. The Kolling Institute’s cardiology research aims to understand predictive factors and improve prevention of heart attacks as well as the management of patients following an episode.
2. Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
Numbness is when you lose feeling in a part of your body and can often feel like a tingling or burning sensation. These suggest signs of a stroke and when paired with the unexpected loss/slurring of speech, loss of vision, facial drooping or dizziness seek urgent emergency care.
Often considered a ‘Brain Attack’, a stoke is defined as when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, due to a blocked or burst artery, stopping blood flow to the brain and causing damage.
3. Breathing difficulties
If overweight or after doing vigorous exercise, it’s normal to feel short of breath.
Breathing problems may also be caused by asthma, anxiety or a panic attack and even the common cold. But when you are constantly gasping for air and feeling breathless, this can be a sign of something more serious, and best you seek urgent care.
4. Uncontrollable bleeding
First Aid is essential to manage the external bleeding as much as possible by applying direct pressure to the wound. If the bleeding is internal, for example coughing up a lot of blood or passing red urine, go straight to the hospital. For both occasions, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
When the bleeding becomes severe or if an extreme loss of blood occurs, this can lead the body into shock due to not enough blood circulating the body.
5. Sudden collapse or unexplained fall
Fainting or having a blackout occurs when you temporarily lose consciousness because there wasn’t enough oxygen to the brain. You should go to the Emergency Department if you or a loved one gets injured due to the fall, are pregnant or have diabetes.
If you are elderly and get injured due to a fall, seek urgent medical attention.
Serious causes of collapse include suffering from a heart attack, stroke, seizure or a drug overdose.
6. Severe burns, particularly in young children
A burn is when too much heat, sun, chemicals or electricity causes tissue damage to your skin and body. Serious deep burns will require monitoring and cleaning from your doctor or nurse, in case the burn requires any surgery. If you have suffered a deep burn call for an ambulance immediately and whist waiting, put the burn under cold running water for 20 minutes.
7. If you have been physically or sexually assaulted
Physical and sexual assault, including domestic violence, is never okay and if you don’t feel safe where you are, call triple zero (000).
It’s important to go to hospital as the doctors and medical specialists in the Emergency Department will conduct special procedures in place to best support you during this time. This may include any required health checks, pregnancy tests and treatment of any injuries as well as referrals to any support services.
8. Drug overdose or alcohol poisoning
An overdose is defined as when a person takes too much of a drug, medication or poison which may result in a toxic effect on the body causing harm to the person. Australian Poison Information Centres answer more than 160,000 calls to cases of poisoning each year.^
Call for an ambulance immediately if someone stops breathing, collapses, has a seizure or a severe allergic reaction because of the drug overdose or poisoning. Symptoms may include painful itching or blistering skin, excessive sweating, vomiting, limp body and difficulty breathing.
9. Serious trauma or injury
Whether it’s a serious bone fracture, major fall, vehicle accident or concern for you or your loved one’s mental health, any serious trauma or injury that is a high threat to life needs to be taken to the Emergency Department immediately. These may require hospitalisation or even intensive care.
10. Severe allergic reaction
When a substance enters the body and has a negative reaction to the immune system, this is called an allergic reaction. Mild reactions may include hay fever or hives – more serious reactions may cause anaphylaxis and requires immediate emergency care at the hospital.
Signs of someone going into anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, a swollen tongue, tightness in the throat and dizziness.
These are just 10 reasons to visit your local ED. They are not the only reasons. It is important to understand and recognise the difference between what is a medical emergency and a non-emergency medical situation that can be tended to by your local GP.
If it is not an emergency:
If you need any health advice, Healthdirect Australia (1800 022 222) offers a 24-hour hotline staffed by registered nurses; and the National Home Doctor Service (137425) and the Home GP Service (1300 466 347) offer home visits after hours.
Your positive impact for our emergency departments:
Last financial year Northern Sydney Local Health District;
- had 35,074 ambulance arrivals to our emergency departments
- 229,711 patients cared for in our emergency departments That is over 600 patients cared per day
With the wonderful support of our loyal donors, last financial year the NORTH Foundation raised $160,856.88 for our Emergency Departments as well as an additional $15,090.00 for emergency research.
Other Useful Numbers to have on your fridge:
Alcohol and Drug Information Service Sydney
(02) 9361 8000 or 1800 422 599 (for country callers)
Child Protection Helpline
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Helpline (LifeLine)
1800 200 526
1800 551 800
NSW Poisons Information Centre
NSW Rape Crisis Centre
(02) 9819 7357 or 24/7 Counselling 1800 424 017
District Public Health Unit
02 9477 9400 or 02 9477 9123 (after hours)
State Mental Health Line
1800 011 511 (24 hours)
Surgery Access Line
1800 053 456
To find your nearest emergency department in NSW, visit Emergency Department waiting times.