Posted by: yourhealthradio | April 4, 2011

Do you know when (or Not) to call 911?

Picture this scenario: a child in your family gets a piece of Lego stuck in his/her nose, what do you do? Call 911 or take your child to the doctor? Well, if you think you should call 911, keep reading.  Even if you know the answer to that scenario, as we will found out, not everyone does.

In Emergency Medicine Journal researchers performed a pilot study looking at whether the general population knew when to call an ambulance and when they should not.  The study gave a series of scenarios to about 50 adults, and asked them: Would you call 911 for this?

The results showed most people could correctly identify that if you were having a heart attack, had overdosed on pills, or had a bad traffic accident, that you should be calling 911 for emergency response.

Although people could correctly identify when to make these calls, we were extremely surprised to find there were also people who thought calling 911 was appropriate in situations where it was actually highly inappropriate.  For instance, a man with chronic back pain who had run out of painkillers or when someone had been cut on the palm of their hand and it wasn’t bleeding heavily. Both of those situations do not require a call to 911, but lots of adults thought so.

To call or not to call, really comes down to knowing the difference between needing to seek medical care or medical advice, versus an actual call for emergency. We aren’t suggesting that you not call 911 if you have a true emergency, but we are asking you to find resources through your primary care physician, a nurse line, or urgent care and after-hours options that are offered for treating a less than emergent, though still important, illness.  Back to our lego situation above- this can happen to all of us (and maybe did happen to Cristy or Adam’s child), but in this situation, no need to call an ambulance- rather, take the child to the doctor.


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