Tag Archives: strep throat

In Case of Medical Emergency

Long View: What Is a Medical Emergency?

According to Medicare.gov, a medical emergency is a situation where “[Y]ou believe you have an injury or illness that requires immediate medical attention to prevent a disability or death.”

It seems pretty straightforward, so why are there so many questions around the decision to get treatment at your local emergency room?

An emergency room (ER) provides some of the most sophisticated diagnostic options in a hospital and the most immediate care to patients in crisis.

The list of possible emergencies is endless, so it’s important for you to recognize how serious your injury or illness is and to know the best way to get treatment for it.

Many of us have heard about folks with medical emergencies driving themselves to get treatment or catching a ride with a family member. Please don’t. Driving yourself puts you and others in jeopardy and delays the start of your treatment. Dialing 911 brings you the treatment quickly and gets you to an emergency room faster than a white-knuckle trip across town, dodging traffic lights.

Dr. Frank Friedman, one of our medical directors who specializes in emergency care, said, “A true emergency is one that can’t wait. It is something causing such severe pain or such a risk to life or limb, for oneself or a loved one, that it can’t wait hours, or a day or two, to be seen by one’s own doctor or healthcare provider.”

If it’s not an emergency but you need medical care to keep an illness or injury from getting worse, call your doctor. If your doctor can’t see you right away or the office is closed, urgent care (or convenient care) can help you get treatment quickly.

Over the years, I have heard some interesting and alarming questions from our members. This FAQ can help answer those questions.

Q. I just got one of your policies, and I’m having severe chest pain. Will you cover me for an ER visit?

A. This is one of the most unsettling questions we receive. If you’re experiencing severe chest pain, don’t call your plan, call 911. It’s as simple as that.

Q. Do I have to pay a copay when I get there?

A. No, they should be able to bill you, so there’s no reason to wave your credit card around as they wheel you through the front door. In fact, under federal law, an ER has to evaluate and stabilize you in an emergency medical situation, without regard for your ability to pay.

Q. What if I have special conditions they need to know about?

A. Keep a list of your medications with you. MedicAlert’s medical IDs or the Yellow Dot program can also help you share this information. And many smart phones have features that let you add emergency contacts and medical information. Plan ahead.

Q. What are some examples of when I should go to the ER and when I should go to my doctor or urgent care?

A. Visit the ER for emergencies like chest pain, broken bones, poisoning, shortness of breath, fainting, and seizures. For things like a constant fever, strep throat, sprains, the cold or flu, earaches, or minor infections like pink eye, call your doctor or visit urgent care.

Will you recognize a medical emergency? Probably yes, so trust your judgment, act quickly, and please be careful out there.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Should You Be Fighting Your Symptoms with Antibiotics?

What Do Your Symptoms Mean?

Have you ever heard people say they’re getting the flu when they have a stomach bug? How about a stuffy nose or sore throat just being allergies?

We try to diagnose ourselves all the time. That’s how sites like WebMD got so popular. And trying to figure out what’s wrong is a good thing, but sometimes it’s really hard to know what our bodies’ symptoms are trying to tell us.

And believe it or not, knowing if you have a bacterial infection, a cold, or the flu can make a big difference.

When you have a bacterial infection, your doctor gives you an antibiotic. Antibiotics only cure infections caused by bacteria, like:

  • Strep throat
  • Staph infection
  • Sinus infections
  • Some pneumonia
  • Some ear infections

Antibiotics can make you or your kids feel better fast when they’re taken for those things. But if you take antibiotics for infections they can’t treat, like ones caused by viruses, bacteria can build up antibiotic resistance.

When you take antibiotics and don’t have an infection from bacteria, it gives the bacteria the chance to learn from the antibiotic, and then it can change to survive and grow, which means next time you really need an antibiotic, it might not work as well. This is bacteria becoming antibiotic resistant.

Some of the illnesses antibiotics can’t cure are:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throat not caused by strep
  • Runny nose

Unfortunately, a bacterial infection in your lungs or strep throat can have a lot of the same symptoms as the flu. Your doctor can tell whether you have a bacterial or viral infection by doing a quick test, like a throat swab.

If you’re trying to figure out if you need to go to the doctor because you’re not sure if you have more than a common cold, though, this chart can help:

What Your Symptoms Mean

If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, make sure you take it exactly how your doctor told you to. Don’t stop taking it early, even if you feel better. You need to kill all of the bacteria to keep from getting sick again.

If you do have a viral infection, like a cold or the flu, these are things you can try to feel better:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which pain relievers are right for your child’s age and how much you should give him or her.
  • Try over-the-counter cold or cough medicine (check if it’s OK for kids).

And if you’re still not sure, don’t forget that Health Alliance members can call the Anytime Nurse Line 24/7 for help figuring out what you might have and if you should visit the doctor.

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In Case of Emergency

ER Care vs. Urgent Care

Your 2-year-old has an earache. You slip and sprain your ankle. You’re feeling chest pain. Do you know where you should be getting care in each of these cases?

It can be hard to know, but it’s important because if you go to the emergency room when it’s not actually an emergency, your insurance may not pay for your care.

A trip to the ER is usually the most expensive kind of care. The average ER visit costs more than the average American’s monthly rent.

If you don’t need help right away, you can save time and money by setting up a same-day appointment with your doctor or going to an urgent care or convenient care clinic. These usually have extended hours, you don’t need an appointment, and many clinics have them.

But when something happens and you need care right away, you should know which things you should go to an urgent care location for, and when you should go to the ER.

Emergency Room or Convenient Care?

Earache

Visit convenient care. This needs care to keep it from getting worse, but it won’t pose a serious health risk if not treated immediately.

Sprained Ankle

Visit convenient care. This injury isn’t life threatening, but you may need medical attention to treat it.

Chest Pain

Go to the ER. This could because of a serious problem and is normally considered a medical emergency.

A trip to the ER is usually the most expensive kind of care. If you don’t need help right away, you can save time and money by setting up a same-day appointment with your doctor or going to an urgent care or convenient care clinic. These usually have extended hours, you don’t need an appointment, and many clinics have them. Carle, for example, has a few convenient care options.

Let these examples be your guide to where you should go:

Emergencies

Urgent Care Situations

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Poisoning
  • Broken bones
  • Fainting, seizures, or unconsciousness
  • Sharp wounds
  • Serious bleeding
  • Constant high or rising fever
  • Migraine headaches that don’t improve
  • Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bronchitis
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Cuts, even minor ones, that need closed
  • Constant high or rising fever
  • Migraine headaches that don’t improve
  • Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bronchitis
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Cold and flu
  • Minor infections, like bladder, sinus, or pink eye
  • Rash or sunburns
  • Sprains and strains
  • Back and neck pain
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Earache
  • Strep throat
  • Minor cuts
  • Minor work illness or injuries

 

It’s not always easy to know if you should go to the emergency room, especially when you need to act fast. The key is to trust your judgment. If you believe your health is in serious danger, it’s an emergency.