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We all know the inside of an emergency room all too well. The triage, the countless blood pressure tests and urine samples, the multiple nurses you meet before you actually see the doctor. After the 3-5 hours of waiting, you finally get a diagnosis and you think “why the heck did I just sit here for that long?”. The top 5 reasons an American visits the emergency room are typically things that can be treated within the comforts of their own home. Why waste that extra money, valuable time and a good nights rest?

Here some quick stats to show how the ER is being utilized and the amount of visit that are actually life threatening according to the CDC.

  • 130.4 million ER visits occur annually in the US
  • Out of the 130.4 million ER visits only 37.2 million are injury related
  • Out of the 130.4 visits annually, only 12.2 million result in admission
  • Only 1.5 million are considered critical or life threatening injuries

So, out of 130.4 million visits to the ER, only 9.3% are life threatening enough to result in admission to the hospital. Why are we so quick to visit the ER instead of trying to resolve the condition at home? Lack of knowledge and fear of something worse is usually the root cause especially if it involves children. Below we will talk about a few of the top 4 reasons you or someone you love has visited the ER and how they can save a trip plus a load of cash. Most ER visits cost an average of $1,233 even for the insured.

What Are The Top 4 Reasons For ER Visits?

1. Fever

Fevers are one of the leading conditions resulting in a visit to your local emergency room. We have been conditioned to believe that a fever is bad and needs immediate medical attention. A fever is not only a good thing but its also showing that your immune system is working correctly. Before you head out in the middle of the night because you or your child are a tinge warm, follow these quick steps that might save you a night in triage.

How hot is too hot?

Anything above 105.o Fahrenheit in a child becomes worrisome to any health care professional and 104.0 Fahrenheit in an adult.

When is a fever serious?

When you or your child have a fever but its accompanied by one of these:

  • Stops taking fluids
  • Hasn’t urinated or had a bowel movement in 48 hours
  • Lethargic
  • Vomiting
  • Dark discolored stools
  • Fainting
  • Stiff neck

If you or your child are experiencing any of these then a trip to the ER is most likely a smart choice. Complications from dehydration are extremely serious and more life threatening than a fever. 

How To Treat a Fever At Home:

  • Eating should be kept to a minimum because it can suppress your immune system. Opt for blending or liquefying fresh veggies or broth to aide your immune response.
  • 8 ounces of water every 1-2 hours (avoid fruit juice and sugar drinks)
  • Avoid fever reducers as they tend to mask key symptoms that may need immediate attention. Fever reducers also suppress the immune system and prolong the illness that your attempting to treat due to them warding off the fever that’s attempting to fight off the infection.  
  • Stay cool and wear light clothing
  • DO NOT attempt to cool off by using an ice cold bath. It can send you or your loved ones body into shock.
  • Luke warm bath and a cool rag will help regulate your temperature and provide some comfort.
  • Use cooling essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus in a bath.
  • Wet rag on the forehead and back of the neck are useful near bed time.

2. Sprains

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You’re walking along the street and suddenly your ankle folds inwards. Your first thought is “Please don’t be broken”. Typically, your second thought is “I need to go to the ER!”. Do sprains need immediate attention or do we let our fear get the best of us?

When does a sprain need immediate attention?

If you think you’ve experienced a sprain, pay attention to these symptoms that follow that may require more medical attention.

  • Black and blue discoloration
  • Blood flow reduction in sprained area causing blue discoloration and tingling
  • Inability to walk (or move sprained area) or do daily tasks using sprained area
  • Dislocation around sprained area (may actually be broken)

If you experience any of those symptoms above along with a sprain, you may need further medical attention.

How to treat a minor sprain at home:

  • Keep weight off the area affected
  • Use the sprained area as little as possible
  • Do ROM (range of motion) on sprained area before bed and in the morning
  • Apply anti inflammatory essential oils like peppermint and clove to reduce inflammation
  • Alternate between cold and hot packs during the day on sprained area
  • Buy a compression wrap for sprained area or simple sprain wrap from your local drug store. Apply wrap whenever you will use sprained area to limit the chances of further injury.

3. Head Injury

Head injuries is number 3 on the list of injuries treated in the ER. This sort of injury should absolutely NOT BE TREATED AT HOME.

Head injuries should never be taken lightly and need immediate medical attention if you start experiencing:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Migraine lasting longer than 48 hours
  • Blood shot eyes
  • Bleeding from injured portion of head
  • Blood draining from nose or tear ducts

Do not attempt to treat a head injury at home. This sort of injury can be life threatening within hours and it’s absolutely worth getting a second opinion via a medical professional.

4. Flu/Common cold

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You feel a sniffle coming on and you chalk it up to “Maybe I just have a little bug”. Soon comes the chills, fever and slight body aches and you start fearing the worse. “Is this some infectious disease?” quickly runs through your mind. Before you go all the way off the rails and floor it to your nearest emergency room, calm down and understand what your body is doing.

Common cold or flu?

Doesn’t matter, both are treatable at home. Contrary to what the media portrays, the flu is not a death sentence and doesn’t always need medical attention. Complications from the flu are what’s worrisome.

When the flu or common cold are need medical attention:

  • Might experience increased heart palpitations due to dehydration
  • Erratic cough resulting in lack of oxygen
  • Immobility due to stiff muscles
  • Vomiting and nausea (can cause serious dehydration)
  • Migraine lasting longer than 48 hours

The biggest complication from the flu is dehydration. Being dehydrated can cause a wide array of other symptoms that become life threatening.

How to treat a cold or flu at home:

  • Fluids, fluids, fluids! I cant stress this enough. 8-12 ounces of water (not juice or drinks with sugar) every hour
  • Stay cool and out of the heat
  • Refrain from using acetametophine, NSAID (Non steroidal anti inflammatory drug) and aspirin for pain/fever relief. They block your natural immune response and extend the longevity of the virus
  • Refrain from ingesting any drinks that have caffeine. They cause massive dehydration.
  • Reduce the amount of solid foods or water fast to aide your immune response. Solid food often slows down your natural immune response and helps the virus linger

Supplement’s, vitamin’s and tea’s to take when battling the flu:

  • High doses of Vitamin c, Echinacea for immune boosting support
  • Ginger tea for nausea and vomiting
  • Fresh garlic tea to break up mucous and boost immunity
  • Kombucha without added fruit juice for probiotic benefits
  • Peppermint essential oil placed on the back, chest and under the nose to aid mucous breakdown.
  • Cool shower for comfort

Avoid these things if you suspect you have the flu or common cold:

  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Fever reducers
  • Greasy and processed foods
  • Extremely hot showers

All of these will prolong the virus and intensify dehydration rapidly.

I’ve been guilty of visiting the ER for two of these especially with my little one. The best thing to remember is, not everything requires a diagnosis and stethoscope. Save yourself hours in a waiting room and a lengthy insurance bill by saving this article for future reference. Stay calm, you are capable.


Image sources:,, SurvivorPediatrics