When to Visit the Emergency Department or Call 9-1-1

MWHC Emergency entrance and ambulance

If you are facing a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Visit the Emergency department when you are experiencing a major or life-threatening issue that requires immediate testing and treatment. Examples include the following:

  • Chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe abdominal pain, major head injury, heavy bleeding, severe dizziness or passing out (fainting or loss of consciousness), stroke symptoms, seizures, or other conditions with risk of loss of life or limb

Driving to the emergency room versus calling 9-1-1

  • Do not drive yourself if you are experiencing a major or life-threatening issue, as the risk of an accident is increased.
  • You may accept a ride from a family member, friend, taxi, or ride-sharing service if your life is not in danger and your condition does not require immediate intervention.
  • Call 9-1-1 if your life is in danger or your condition is one in which every minute counts.

What to bring with you

When you can gather them safely, we recommend bringing the following to help your visit go smoothly:

  • A family member or friend: Having someone with you can be comforting, and you may need someone to provide information or instructions on your behalf if you have a serious condition.
  • Identification Cards: Bring your driver's license, social security card and medical insurance card(s).
  • List of medications and dosage: This will help us to avoid prescribing drugs that will interact with medication(s) you're already taking.
  • Primary care physician information: It is helpful for us to be able to contact your primary care physician should questions arise.

Find the closest MedStar Health Emergency department.

Learn which care option is right for you.