March 6, 2019


Figuring out if medical symptoms warrant a call to 911 or a trip to the emergency department can be hard. Patients are often afraid to call, thinking their medical complaints aren’t severe enough to “bother” emergency care providers. But you aren’t really bothering anyone. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are supposed to respond to medical emergencies, and those emergencies are defined by the patients rather than the responders.

When trying to decide whether or not to call 911 or go to the emergency department, better to decide to go rather than not go.

Having a list of conditions for when to call 911 is good, but it’s much better to know how to recognize an emergency no matter what the complaint is.


We’ve all been short of breath from exercise, but when that feeling comes without any reason, it is scary. Sometimes patients don’t recognize breathing emergencies. Choking, for example, is not always called into 911 right away. Unfortunately, once a choking patient has become unconscious, very little oxygen is left in the bloodstream.

There are plenty of other causes of shortness of breath. Heart attacks, pneumonia, emphysema, asthma, and pneumothorax are all examples of things that can lead to trouble breathing. Allergic reactions can also cause trouble breathing or difficulty swallowing and indicate anaphylaxis, a serious emergency.