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When to Use the Emergency Department

You should visit the emergency department if you feel you have a serious medical problem and are unable to see your family doctor quickly. Examples of medical conditions that need immediate medical treatment include:
  • Pain in your chest, arm, or jaw
  • Breathing problems
  • Weakness or dizziness that does not get better
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Sudden confusion
  • Unusual severe headache
  • Frequent vomiting and diarrhea and/or severe belly pain
  • Injury to your head (especially if you lost consciousness, fainted, or became confused)
  • Injury to your neck or spine (especially with loss of feeling or motion in a part of your body) Do not move a person with this problem unless it is a life and death situation, eg, fire, drowning.
  • Large cut or wound (with or without severe bleeding)
  • Injury to a joint or limb with loss of use, swelling, and severe pain
  • Serious burns or breathing  of smoke or other poisonous fumes
  • Severe allergic reactions from insect bites, food or medications
  • High fever that cannot be controlled or any fever if you are receiving cancer medications
  • Sudden high fever with neck stiffness and headache
  • Poisoning or drug/alcohol overdose
  • Suicidal thoughts

Emergency RoomCommon minor illnesses can be a problem for some people such as young children and the elderly. If you have a medical problem such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer or liver disease, you may need to seek medical attention in the emergency department to prevent your condition from getting worse.

You may also need to visit the emergency department if you are asked to return for a check-up from an earlier visit or to have a treatment or procedure done, such as receiving intravenous medications.

If you are not sure that your condition is serious enough to visit the emergency department, you can call the Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine (1-888-709-2929) and speak to a registered nurse for advice at any time of the day. 

Visit Your Family Doctor
If your illness is not an emergency, it may be better to visit your family doctor. Your family doctor knows you and your medical history and can provide follow-up care, such as looking at the results of blood tests and making sure that you are taking the right medications.


Updated May 25, 2017