Chronically ill? Avoid the ER
You and your health care team can prevent your chronic condition from landing you in the ER. For example, in a program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ER visits decreased by 50% among individuals with diabetes once they received more routine care and education.
What can you do to improve your health, lower your costs and avoid emergencies? Keep your illness under control.
- Take your medications as instructed and on time. This is essential in managing many chronic conditions.
- Make lifestyle changes if needed. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, improving your diet, starting an exercise routine or losing weight can make you feel better in the short and long term.
- Check your symptoms regularly. This is especially important for people with diabetes, who should monitor their blood sugar levels every day.
- Take action when your symptoms indicate a problem, For example, if you have asthma and your peak flow is down, or if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is low, take the corrective steps that your doctor has advised.
People with asthma and diabetes can take specific steps to avoid emergencies.
- Asthma: Successful management requires you to follow the action plan developed with your doctor. The plan should tell you how to record your symptoms and identify your triggers. it should also help tell you when to take your management and rescue medications and when to seek emergency medical care.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are at risk for a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis, which requires immediate ER treatment. Knowing the warning signs (fatigue, flushed skin, fruity-smelling breath, difficulty breathing, nausea, confusion) and checking urine and blood for evidence of problems can head off this dangerous complication.
What’s and emergency?
No matter what your chronic condition and even without one you should learn what constitutes an “emergency.” According to the CDC, most Americans who check into the ER do not require urgent care.
If you have trouble breathing, sever pain, trauma (from a car accident, for instance), loss of consciousness, symptoms of a stroke, heart attack, or other critical symptoms, go to the ER. If you have the flu or any other non-threatening illness, you should see your doctor or ask your pharmacist if over-the-counter medications could help your condition.