Ambulance at an emergency room at night

Determining when to go to the hospital or seek medical care can be a challenge, particularly in the age of COVID-19 (coronavirus). You may find yourself afraid to go, even when it's necessary.

Now more than ever, it is important to keep yourself healthy. Keeping yourself healthy means addressing health problems as they arise.

This includes getting evaluated by your primary care physician and going to an emergency room (ER) when appropriate.

Should I Go to the Hospital?

Staying at home when possible is an important part of containing coronavirus spread. However, people experiencing medical emergencies or those that need urgent medical care should not stay at home. If you need care, you should go to the hospital. 

Now more than ever, ERs are here for communities in Maryland and the nation. Hospitals across the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) will never close our doors to anyone who needs care.

Please do not ignore your body. Warning signs and symptoms should be discussed with your doctor or evaluated at an urgent care or ER, depending on the severity of symptoms.

When to Go to the ER

Go to the hospital if you experience symptoms of any life-threatening illnesses, not just for symptoms of coronavirus.

Symptoms of a Medical Emergency

Symptoms that may indicate a life-threatening emergency include:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness or weakness
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Any sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty speaking

Getting urgent help when needed is especially important for strokes and heart attacks. Outcomes for these medical emergencies are tied to how quickly the patient receives care, so delaying getting treatment due to coronavirus fears can have serious consequences.

People with existing medical conditions that increase the likelihood of experiencing a medical emergency should speak with their doctor about managing their condition during the pandemic.

When to Go to the Doctor

Beyond emergency care, health problems that are treated earlier do much better than health problems that are treated later. Sometimes irreversible damage can occur when you delay care. For example, wounds that are not appropriately cared for become infected or need more extensive procedures than they would have otherwise.

While it's important to continue social distancing as much as possible, you can still go to the doctor's office for some regularly scheduled wellness exams. For example, it is important to attend exams where a child will be getting routine vaccinations to protect them against other viruses and bacteria in the community.

Depending on the situation, your primary care doctor may provide you an in-person visit or a telehealth evaluation. Contact your doctor to find out what type of visit might be appropriate. You can use MyPortfolio to communicate with your UMMS provider.

Telemedicine Visits

A telehealth evaluation can address some non-urgent health concerns, including routine appointments, wound evaluations and medication refills or adjustments.

Many UMMS physicians have the ability to evaluate you via telemedicine, which means you don’t need to leave your home for a doctor evaluation.

If you have a health question, scheduling a telemedicine appointment can be an option for non-emergency situations. Call your physician to learn more about the best options for your specific health needs.

Going to the Hospital for Coronavirus

Most people who have coronavirus experience mild symptoms that can be treated at home. However, some people, particularly those who have underlying conditions, may experience more serious symptoms that require treatment at a hospital.

Serious coronavirus symptoms that could require emergency care include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or can't be woken up
  • Lips or face turning blue

If you have questions about your symptoms, call your doctor or talk to a registered nurse through the UMMS Nurse Call Line.

If your symptoms are life-threatening, call 911 or go to the ER right away.

Hospital Safety During Coronavirus

Hospitals across the nation are facing challenges due to the pandemic. Despite this, hospitals are still safe places to come to for care.

There are a number of measures that University of Maryland Medical System hospitals are taking to keep you safe. Some of these include: