When to Use the Emergency Room

When should you — as a prudent* layperson — go to the hospital emergency room? ONLY go when your situation is an emergency, involving a severe illness or injury, and if an emergency exists, go to the nearest emergency room (ER), or call 911. You do not need to get approval from Horizon NJ Health or your doctor to go to the ER in an emergency.

Following are some emergency situations when you should definitely go to the ER:

  • Difficulty breathing, moving, or speaking.
  • Chest pain (especially if there is a risk for a heart attack).
  • Heavy bleeding (bleeding that does not stop).
  • Poisoning.
  • Drug overdose.
  • Broken bones.
  • Car accident, if injured.
  • When you are in labor during pregnancy.

If you are not sure if your illness or injury is an emergency, call your doctor.

Some examples of illnesses or injuries that can wait until you talk to your doctor are:

  • Cold, cough, or sore throat.
  • Earache.
  • Menstrual and muscle cramps.
  • Bruises, small cuts, or minor burns.
  • Rashes or minor swelling.

Urgent Care

If your situation is not an emergency, but it is medically necessary for you to receive treatment within 24 hours, call your doctor. This is known as urgent care. Your doctor will make the necessary arrangements to treat your medical condition.

Some examples of urgent care are severe headaches, the sudden onset of dizziness, and abdominal pains.

*A prudent layperson is an individual "who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in placing the health of the individual (or with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy; or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part".