Horrifying Signs You Should Go to the ER Right Away

It can be hard to tell whether or not your symptoms are serious enough to skip the doctor and head to the hospital. Sometimes, it can be a slight difference in symptoms that can mean something much worse (such as mild, brief chest pain versus persistent chest pain). Here are a few signs that might seem like nothing but are definitely a reason to head to the emergency room right away.

Persistent chest pain

Middle-aged businessman suffering chest pains

Keep an eye on chest pain. | iStock.com/mheim3011

Chest pain can, at its worst, signal a heart attack. If you’re experiencing chest pain that is persistent, it’s always best to go to the emergency room. It could be nothing — chest pain is sometimes caused by indigestion. However, it’s best to let the doctor diagnose that. Plus, you shouldn’t drive yourself. If you are driving and suddenly go into cardiac arrest, you could injure anyone around you — especially yourself.

Next: This other heart issue could mean trouble. 

Severe heart palpitations

Stethoscope sitting on an red ECG printout

If you feel lots of ups and downs there may be cause for concern. | iStock.com/RTimages

Heart palpitations make you feel like your heart is beating too fast, too hard, or skipping a beat. It might feel like it is literally beating out of your chest. If these palpitations persist, you should definitely go to the emergency room. It could signal a more severe heart problem. Often, palpitations are not harmful. However, if you’re experiencing severe palpitations that won’t stop, it’s best to go to the ER.

Next: Any change in this means you should get to the ER. 

Vision problems

Blurred vision

Do things look like this? | Svetlanais Getty Images

Vision loss can mean more than just needing a pair of glasses. If you suddenly have blurred or double vision, or start to lose your vision altogether, it could be a sign of something far more serious. Specifically, vision troubles often accompany a stroke. Also, always call 911 with vision problems — don’t drive yourself to the hospital.

Next: Any trouble with this can signal a serious problem. 

Trouble breathing

Woman having trouble in breathing

Is it more difficult for you to move than it used to be?| iStock.com/OcusFocus

If you’re having trouble breathing, it could be a sign of quite a few things. It could mean you’re suffering an allergy attack. It could also be accompanied with chest pain as a sign of a heart attack. Sometimes, trouble breathing occurs during an anxiety attack. If you haven’t just run a sprint and are not prone to anxiety, yet you suddenly have trouble breathing, get to the ER right away.

Next: Don’t take this sudden pain lightly. 

Sudden, severe headache

headache during work at the office

It could be nothing, but it might be something more serious. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

A sudden, severe headache is sometimes referred to as a thunderclap headache. It’s a sudden pain that comes out of nowhere and can reach peak intensity in seconds or minutes. If you experience a thunderclap headache, it’s important to immediately get to the hospital. Thunderclap headaches can signal a brain aneurysm or possibly a brain infection.

Next: An injury to this body part should never be underestimated. 

Head injury

Chievo defender's Fabio Depaoli touches his head after an injury

Head injuries are no joke. | MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Any time you fall and hit your head, you should go to the hospital. Sometimes, severe head injuries don’t show symptoms at first. Actress Natasha Richardson famously declined help after falling during a ski trip. Just a few hours later, she was unconscious and did not survive the injury. Head injuries should not be taken lightly. Even if you fall down the stairs and get up right away, it’s best to head to the ER and have some tests done to be sure.

Next: If your temperature is soaring, you should get immediate help. 

High fever

Sick woman cough in ved under blanket

Sometimes you just can’t get out of bed. | iStock.com/samotrebizan

Typically, fevers signal some sort of virus that goes away in a few days. Most children and adults can tolerate a fever that is 103 or 104 degrees for a short amount of time, but it might be good to call the doctor. For anything higher than that, especially if you’re elderly, it’s best to get to the emergency room. For infants, a visit to the emergency room should happen if the fever is 100.4 or higher.

Next: This could be an extremely serious symptom. 


Doctor using a mobile phone notes scan brain results

You may want to get it checked out. | iStock.com/utah778

Any kind of unexplained seizure (meaning you have not been diagnosed with epilepsy) warrants an emergency room visit. A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. It can be a sign of epilepsy, or something else, like a stroke or a psychological condition. There are various types and causes of seizures, so it is best to seek emergency treatment right away if you have one.

Next: If you can’t feel pain with this, it could be very serious. 

Serious burn

Back with second degree burn

This would be a reason to stop by the ER. | iStock.com/ Lux_D

Catching your arm on the stove likely would not warrant an emergency room visit. However, if any part of you suffers a more severe burn, you need to seek emergency medical treatment (sunburn can also warrant an ER visit). Burns can become seriously infected if not properly treated, which can lead to even further problems. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. With the most severe burns, pain might not even be present because the muscle and tissue under the skin have been destroyed.

Next: Slicing vegetables could take a serious turn. 

Deep cuts

South African model Gabriella Engels

A deep gash will need medical attention. | PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP/Getty Images

Slicing your thumb while slicing into an onion is pretty common. For a minor cut, treatment is not necessary. But if your cut is more than a quarter inch in length, or it’s deep enough that any muscle or bone is showing, it’s important to head to the ER and have it stitched up. Also, if you were cut with any kind of rusty object, it’s best to get immediate help to lower the chance of infection.

Next: If either of these symptoms show, it’s no joke. 

Sudden paralysis or extreme weakness

Aged patient receives the visit of a female black doctor

Feeling weak? | iStock.com/diego_cervo

If you suddenly find that you can’t move your body — especially only one side of it, don’t wait with the hopes it will pass. You could be having a stroke, and if that’s the case, it’s important to get to the hospital right away. Brain cells deprived of oxygen die within minutes. The longer you wait, the more long-term damage you could have, including paralysis, memory loss, emotional difficulties, and more.

Next: This symptom might seem like nothing, but that’s not always the case. 

Sudden fainting without explanation

Fainted girl

Has this happened to you? | iStock.com/DragonImages

Fainting is tricky because it often does not require medical attention. However, that’s usually because it can be quickly attributed to something (i.e. getting blood taken, having an anxiety attack, etc.). But if you faint suddenly with no explanation, head to the ER. It could be a serious underlying illness or condition that is resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Next: Dealing with this is unfortunate, but it can lead to more serious problems. 

Severe vomiting or diarrhea

Woman vomiting into the toilet bowl

It may be something serious. | LarsZahnerPhotography/Getty Images

With severe vomiting or diarrhea comes the risk of severe dehydration. If you’ve been vomiting or using the bathroom for four or five hours, and you can’t even keep clear liquids down, you should go to the emergency room. Dehydration is no joke, especially in young children and the elderly. If you vomit any blood, go to the ER right away.

Next: Any alteration in this is a sign to seek help. 

Change in mental status

Has your personality changed suddenly? | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Any alteration in mental status, such as confusion, amnesia, or unusual or strange behavior warrants an ER visit. If you’re elderly, it could be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s, so it might be okay to see your doctor. However, in children and adults, a change in brain function could be something much more serious, especially if you’ve recently suffered a head injury. It’s best to get to the emergency room right away and rule out anything potentially deadly.

Next: If these symptoms become severe, get help. 

Severe flu symptoms

Woman blowing her nose into a tissue.

The flu is a nasty virus. | Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

If a young child or an elderly person comes down with the flu, they are more at risk than adults. If you notice severe flu symptoms persisting, it’s important to get to a hospital. Since the flu is a virus, there often isn’t too much a regular visit to the doctor can do. However, the flu can lead to other complications, like pneumonia, that can be deadly. If you think your symptoms are worsening into pneumonia, get to the hospital right away.

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