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If It's Life-Threatening, Go to the ER

August 17, 2018

Do you know when a situation is life-threatening? When seconds count, it’s important to make the right decision and act quickly so you can get the care you need as soon as possible.

To find out whether you need to go to the emergency room (ER), be alert to the symptoms, especially for common emergencies like a heart attack or stroke. In these situations, the ER is the only option. If you have these symptoms, it’s always an emergency ─ go to the ER or call 911 immediately.

Signs of a Heart Attack
Not all heart attacks are sudden or intense. Some build up slowly and may not have all of the symptoms below. Watch for these signs or a combination of them, and be ready to go to the ER right away:


  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It may last more than a few minutes, or go away and come back.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: This may include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: This may or may not include chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Signs of a Stroke
To spot a stroke and call for help, remember the acronym FAST, which stands for:


  • Face drooping: One side of the face droops or is numb. A smile appears lopsided.
  • Arm weakness: When raising both arms, one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech difficulty: Speaking is hard, and even a short sentence is hard for others to understand.
  • Time to call 911. If you have any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, have someone call 911 or take you to the hospital immediately.

Not an Emergency?
If you need care but it isn’t an emergency, you can go to retail health clinics, walk-in doctor’s offices and urgent care centers. Most are open at night and on weekends, and they can handle a variety of issues.

Source: American Heart Association: Warning Signs of Heart Attack, Stroke & Cardiac Arrest (June 2018):

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of: In Colorado: Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. HMO products underwritten by HMO Colorado, Inc. In Connecticut: Anthem Health Plans, Inc. In Indiana: Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. In Kentucky: Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, Inc. In Maine: Anthem Health Plans of Maine, Inc. In Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area): RightCHOICE® Managed Care, Inc. (RIT), Healthy Alliance® Life Insurance Company (HALIC), and HMO Missouri, Inc. RIT and certain affiliates administer non-HMO benefits underwritten by HALIC and HMO benefits underwritten by HMO Missouri, Inc. RIT and certain affiliates only provide administrative services for self-funded plans and do not underwrite benefits. In Nevada: Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. HMO products underwritten by HMO Colorado, Inc., dba HMO Nevada. In New Hampshire: Anthem Health Plans of New Hampshire, Inc. HMO plans are administered by Anthem Health Plans of New Hampshire, Inc. and underwritten by Matthew Thornton Health Plan, Inc. In Ohio: Community Insurance Company. In Virginia: Anthem Health Plans of Virginia, Inc. trades as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, and its service area is all of Virginia except for the City of Fairfax, the Town of Vienna, and the area east of State Route 123. In Wisconsin: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin (BCBSWI), underwrites or administers PPO and indemnity policies and underwrites the out of network benefits in POS policies offered by Compcare Health Services Insurance Corporation (Compcare) or Wisconsin Collaborative Insurance Corporation (WCIC). Compcare underwrites or administers HMO or POS policies; WCIC underwrites or administers Well Priority HMO or POS policies. Independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc.

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