Frequently Asked Questions About ER Care
We've compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about emergency care.
911 is to be used for emergencies only. Medical symptoms that require immediate medical attention from emergency responders include:
- Chest pain or pressure that lasts more than a couple of minutes or comes back
- Shortness of breath that is severe or is accompanied with nausea, chest pain or passing out
- Sudden vision problems, including blurriness, double vision or loss of vision
- Trouble seeing accompanied with a bad headache, nausea or vomiting, numbness, weakness, dizziness, confusion or trouble talking
- Confusion or trouble speaking, sudden problems walking or balancing, intense headache, dropping on one side of your face, or numbness or weakness on one side of your body
- If you’re on blood-thinning medications and have an injury accompanied with a fast heart rate or breathing, trouble breathing, a headache, or feeling sleepy, faint or dizzy
- Head injury with loss of consciousness, confusion, vomiting or poor skin color
- Neck injury with pain, numbness or weakness of extremities
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- A broken bone with bone protruding through the skin
- Major burn
Urgent cares and ERs both accept walk-in patients without an appointment. Patients at both locations will see the medical provider on duty, not their primary care provider.
Brookings Health System’s ER is always open, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. An urgent care clinic is typically open morning to evenings during the weekdays and limited hours on weekends. Many primary care clinics extend their service hours at their locations for urgent or acute patient needs.
Life-threatening conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, and major trauma, require immediate medical attention. The emergency room provides the quickest and most comprehensive medical solution for these situations.
Urgent care clinics and primary care providers typically provide faster and more affordable treatments for less critical conditions like sinus infections, minor cuts or sprains.
Brookings Health’s emergency department is always available to patients who feel they have a problem that cannot wait for an appointment with their primary care provider.
In a true emergency, such as chest pain, weakness or numbness, or a change in mental status, stop what you are doing and call 911.
The following conditions typically require emergency medical care:
- Chest pain (call 911)
- Shortness of breath
- Serious burn
- Electric shock
- Complications from pregnancy
- Altered mental state
- Stroke-like symptoms
- Fever in infants
- High fever in adults
- Sudden severe headache
- Severe vomiting
- Severe diarrhea
- Amputation of finger or extremity
- Major head injury
- Suspected fractures of the arms or legs or broken bones
- Sudden weakness or drooping on one side of the body
- Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk or move
- Sudden confusion
- Deep wound
- Poisoning or drug overdose
- Inhaled smoke or poisonous fumes
- Uncontrolled pain anywhere on the body
- Suicidal thoughts
- Severe allergic reaction
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Passing out or fainting
- Severe weakness or dizziness
- Heavy bleeding
- Sexual assault
Remember: most symptoms, while scary or painful, are not life-and-death. In many cases, you may have enough time to call your primary care provider’s office to get a professional opinion if you should go to the emergency room or not. Another option is to call your insurance provider’s 24-hour helpline. Most health insurance helplines are staffed with medical professionals who offer advice about whether to go straight to the ER, visit urgent care, or take a wait-and-see approach. However, when in doubt, do not delay seeking medical care.
If you don’t think you actually need the ER, visit an urgent care clinic instead. Most urgent cares do not require an appointment and always welcome walk-ins. Urgent care centers treat ailments that need immediate medical attention but are not life-threatening. They are also a more cost-effective alternative when you need to see someone that same day for an illness but are unable to see your primary care provider.
The following conditions can typically be handled by urgent cares:
- Minor cuts
- Mild abdominal pain
- Minor burns or skin irritations
- Sore throat
- Migraine headache
- Minor injury from falls
- Sprains or strains
- Mild to moderate asthma attacks
- Upper respiratory illness such as cold or influenza symptoms
- Ear infections
- Eye infections
- Illness symptoms such as sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
- Urinary tract infection
Remember: most symptoms, while scary or painful, are not life-and-death. In many cases, you may have enough time to call your primary care provider’s office to get a professional opinion if you should seek care or not. Another option is to call your insurance provider’s 24-hour helpline. Most health insurance helplines are staffed with medical professionals who offer advice about whether to go straight to the ER, visit urgent care, or take a wait-and-see approach. However, when in doubt, do not delay seeking medical care.
Urgent Care Clinics in Brookings:
- List of current medications
- Medical history including allergies, previous surgeries, serious illness, chronic conditions, recent lab work or information from recent doctor’s visits
- Insurance information
- Photo ID
- Emergency contact information
- Support person
Yes. If you are in pain and you are not experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen at home first. We want you to be as comfortable as possible.
Your care doesn’t end at discharge. Your discharge papers will outline your symptoms, cause (if known), treatment, tests and recommendations. It will also include return precautions, symptoms or problems that indicate you should come back to the emergency room.
If your problem worsens, come back to be seen again. Sometimes causes aren’t always apparent when symptoms first emerge. Be sure to also follow up with your primary care provider or medical specialist. Your doctor will review the ER recommendations and make sure you get any additional tests or treatments needed.
Yes. Emergency care is not based on your ability to pay. Brookings Health has patient financial counselors who can help you setup payment plans and find payment assistance you may qualify for. Learn more about our Patient Financial Services.