An ER Director Lists the Ailments Not To Ignore

This week’s announcement from Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding the resumption of elective procedures may help all of us remember not to take our wellness for granted. In recent weeks while many patients may have been eager for this news so that their procedures could be rescheduled, reports suggest that many others haven’t sought care when it was most urgent. Specifically, hospitals around the country have reported that visits to the emergency department have fallen by around 50 percent. This is concerning because for many events, a patient’s outcome depends heavily on medical response time.

Dr. Shaun Sheehan, Penn Highlands Healthcare’s Emergency Services Medical Director and leader of PHH’s COVID-19 task force, endorses this list of symptoms that patients in our region should always seek care for immediately.

• In our area, we see higher rates of coronary artery disease than national averages. Chest pains account for the greatest volume of visits to the Emergency Departments across the Penn Highlands system, and it’s critical for patients to get to the emergency room when they experience chest pains because response time is of the essence. Chest pressure, shortness of breath and pain or tingling in the left arm or fingers are among the symptoms that indicate immediate care is critical.

• Lung cancer and chronic lung diseases are also more prevalent in our region than the national averages. Trouble breathing can be caused by asthma, COPD or other issues, so patients shouldn’t feel discouraged from seeking emergency care for shortness of breath.

• Dr. Sheehan has stated that a number of patients have presented to the Penn Highlands emergency departments showing signs of stroke that have been more advanced than the ED traditionally sees. In some cases, this may be because the patient waited and should have to come to the emergency department. Symptoms such as sudden numbness, weakness in a limb, slurred speech, a drooping side of the face, dizziness or confusion are time-sensitive signals that care shouldn’t be delayed.

• With our proximity to Interstate 80, several Penn Highlands emergency departments attend to victims of many auto accidents. Also common are serious accidents that occur in or around the home. Dr. Sheehan said a “golden hour” exists when responding to trauma cases—that is, 80 percent of trauma deaths happen within the first hour after injury occurs. It’s no surprise that in these cases, the timeframe for aggressive treatment significantly impacts patient outcomes.

• Abdominal pain or nausea that worsens or won’t disappear could be a sign of appendicitis, gallbladder inflammation or other serious ailments. All are necessary to treat with rapid intervention.

• When it comes to orthopedic injuries, the most prevalent cases in our region are due to accidents, aging, and sports injuries. When an injury occurs, a good rule to follow is to seek care if the symptoms get worse instead of better over a few hours’ time.

• Behavioral and mental health needs are important, especially in periods of stress and anxiety such as a pandemic. In recent weeks, reports have suggested that rates of depression and anxiety are significantly higher than usual, which is likely correlated to this week’s data suggesting that at least 50 percent of Americans are reporting economic distress from a lost job or lessening of hours. The worries from these issues can impact the whole family, and in times of heightened stress, it’s important to seek care from professionals.

At Penn Highlands Healthcare, we’re Here for you. Our Emergency Departments and QCare walk-in clinics are open to provide high-quality healthcare in the most urgent moments, with numerous precautionary measures in place to keep you safe from exposure to COVID-19. To see how we can serve you, visit Emergency Care.