What Is a Medical Emergency?

The purpose of any Emergency Department is to save lives. An emergency is any medical problem that could cause death or permanent injury if not treated quickly. Severe pain in some instances can also be a medical emergency, such as the pain associated with kidney stones or appendicitis.

Some examples of medical emergencies are:  

  • Chest pain accompanied by sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, radiating pain that moves to the arm or neck, dizziness, or feeling that your heart is beating irregularly or too fast
  • Choking
  • Severe bleeding that doesn't stop after 15 minutes of direct pressure
  • Fainting
  • Broken or displaced bones
  • Swallowing poison
  • Burns
  • Suddenly not being able to walk, speak, or move a portion of your body
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing

What to Do When You Have a Medical Emergency

  • Go to the Emergency Department
  • Call 911 if necessary
  • Call an Ambulance (911) if you are having chest pain accompanied by sweating, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting. Don't risk driving yourself or having a friend transport you in a private vehicle.

What If I Have a Non-Emergency?

The primary mission of Wake Forest Baptist Health Lexington Medical Center is getting our patients the appropriate level of medical care in the fastest, most efficient manner possible. True medical emergencies should be treated in the Emergency Department. Often, patients come to the Emergency Department for care that could be treated by an urgent care practitioner or primary care physician faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost.

Some examples of non-emergencies are:  

  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • A fever that is relieved with over-the-counter medication
  • Toothache
  • Minor cuts, scrapes and abrasions
  • Muscle sprains
  • Sunburn

Since the primary focus of any Emergency Department is to treat the critically ill and injured first, patients seeking treatment of minor illnesses and injuries will wait longer to see a physician.

Lexington Medical Center offers a Fast Track service for treatment of minor illnesses and injuries daily from 10 am – 11 pm. However, your health insurance plan may not cover treatment of non-emergencies in the Emergency Department.

There are other options for care that may be more convenient and appropriate. When a minor illness or injury strikes, you should first seek treatment by your primary care doctor at his or her office.