Know When to Visit an ER: Top 5 Concerns

By: Bret Frey, MD

March 26, 2024

Emergency room physician comforts patient in ER

When a sudden illness or injury occurs, the emergency room (ER) provides immediate medical attention to those in need. Understanding the top reasons for visiting the ER can help people make informed decisions about seeking emergency care. Here are the five most common reasons people in Nevada visited an ER in 2023.

1. Abdominal pain 

One of the top reasons people visit the ER is abdominal pain. The abdomen has many organs, including the stomach, liver, small and large intestines, gallbladder and pancreas. Significant pain in this area can be a cause of concern. 

Warning signs of a serious problem include abdominal pain with fever, vomiting, and not being able to move or perform everyday tasks due to pain. Seeking medical attention when experiencing these symptoms is essential. Emergency physicians can perform abdominal exams, assess the condition and rule out significant threats.   

2. Fever 

High fevers that do not get better with medicine and are accompanied by other symptoms can cause concern. This can indicate that the body is fighting off an infection or illness. 

Fever with symptoms like vomiting, pain, altered mental status, shortness of breath or inability to perform daily functions are warning signs to watch out for. Adults and children should visit an ER, where the team can assess the causes of the fever.  

3. Chest pain and shortness of breath 

Chest pain and discomfort, or pain in the upper body can suggest warning signs of a heart attack. If a person is experiencing signs of a heart attack, call 911 immediately to ensure timely treatment or assessment by a medical professional.

Heart attack symptoms include: 

  • Chest pain, including pain that can be described as chest pressure, heaviness or squeezing  
  • Discomfort in the chest, arms, back, neck, shoulders and jaw 
  • Difficulty breathing  
  • Sweating with any of the above symptoms  

When visiting a Renown ER for chest pain, a trained medical professional will promptly perform an Electrocardiogram (EKG) in an area where preliminary assessments, also known as triage, take place.

Individuals experiencing shortness of breath or trouble breathing, whether from a respiratory infection, asthma complications or other pre-existing conditions should not ignore symptoms as these can signify more serious issues. 

Warning signs of respiratory distress may include: 

  • A significant change in breathing rate
  • A significant change in the amount of energy used to inhale or exhale when breathing
  • Changing of the skin color to blue, gray or paleness, which can indicate a lack of oxygen
  • Nasal flaring 
  • Chest retractions, which can suggest difficulty bringing air into the lungs
    • What this looks like: the chest sinking in just below the neck, breastbone or rib cage while breathing

4. Neurological symptoms 

Sudden and severe headaches or seizures may prompt individuals to visit the ER if symptoms are extremely disorientating or debilitating. These symptoms could be indicative of various conditions, including strokes or neurological disorders that require prompt evaluation. 

If a person is experiencing signs of stroke, call 911 immediately to ensure timely treatment. 

Stroke symptoms include: 

  • Numbness, weakness or loss of movement in the face, leg or arm, especially on one side
  • Confusion, including trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble with vision or loss of balance 

When choosing emergency care for signs and symptoms of stroke, a Comprehensive Stroke Center can provide patients with immediate intervention, including evaluation, treatment and education.

5. Cough/flu-like symptoms 

Emergency departments are staffed by medical professionals trained to prioritize and treat emergency and trauma situations. Receiving care at an ER should be reserved for severe symptoms and life-threatening conditions.

It’s best to schedule a visit with a primary care physician for mild cold and flu symptoms. Most urgent care locations are equipped with rapid testing options, including RSV, COVID-19, influenza, mononucleosis, urinary issues and strep throat. It is critical to distinguish between common respiratory infections and more severe cases, such as pneumonia or complications from the flu.  

Symptoms that may warrant a visit to the ER include: 

  • Rapid decline in the ability to perform regular daily activities 
  • Coughing or throwing up blood 
  • Severe dehydration and inability to drink fluids
  • High fever not responsive to medication 

Understanding top ER visits in Nevada 

While these ER complaints are common reasons for emergency room visits in Nevada, it's important to remember that emergency care is available for all immediate medical needs. Do not hesitate to seek help at an emergency room if someone experiences a sudden or severe health concern. Quick and appropriate action can make a significant difference in keeping you and your loved ones healthy. 

Renown Health is the largest locally governed, not-for-profit healthcare network in northern Nevada, providing leading emergency and trauma care by board-certified emergency physicians 24/7 at three locations, including the region’s only pediatric emergency department.

Renown Health emergency rooms prioritize swift assessments, advanced diagnostic tools and compassionate care, providing leading emergency and trauma care. Trust Renown ER for not just emergency care but exceptional care. Learn more at

    • Previous Article

    Most Common Reasons Women Visit the ER

    If you or someone you know is experiencing a medical emergency, it's essential to seek immediate attention by calling 9-1-1 or visiting the ER for a thorough evaluation by a trained medical professional and timely intervention. Access to a...
    Read More
    • Next Article

    When Care Can’t Wait: True Stories of Renown ER

    Renown Health is home to three 24/7 Emergency Rooms (ERs) providing comprehensive emergency and trauma care, access to specialists and inpatient services backed by the area's most extensive health system. In 2023, Renown Health cared for...
    Read More