When to Go to The ER For COVID-19


Apr 2, 2022


The range in severity of COVID-19 symptoms is broad, making it hard to know exactly when to go to the ER for COVID-19. That said, there are specific emergency warning signs that you should be aware of if you are symptomatic.

Call 911 immediately if you are experiencing symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, confusion, bluing of the lips, face, or hands, and/or an inability to stay awake. If you are at all concerned about any of the symptoms you are experiencing, never hesitate to call your doctor. They can help to advise you on whether it is necessary to seek emergency medical care.

In this article, Complete Care, a 24/7 stand-alone emergency room with locations throughout Texas and Colorado, walks you through several possible signs you need to go to the hospital for COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Standard symptoms of COVID-19 can include a range of the following and may appear within 2-14 days of exposure.

  • Fever or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

If you notice any of the above symptoms or are aware of recent exposure, monitor your symptoms, find a COVID-19 testing site near you, and stay at home.

Five reasons to go to ER with COVID

When should I seek emergency medical care for COVID? Here are five emergency signs you need to go to the hospital for COVID* according to the CDC:

*This is not an exhaustive list of emergency COVID-19 symptoms. If you notice any severe or abnormal symptoms or are at all concerned, do not hesitate to call your doctor or head into the ER.

1. Difficulty breathing

What does shortness of breath feel like? Feeling “short of breath” can be described as needing to pant, not being able to take in a full breath, needing to breathe at a faster pace than normal, not being able to hold your breath, or needing to cough after inhaling. This feeling of “air hunger” is a common symptom of COVID-19, but when it’s combined with any chest pain, fainting, bluish lips, or a change in mental alertness, it’s time to seek emergency attention.

2. Persistent chest pain or pressure

Regardless of whether you are experiencing dull, achy, stabbing, or sharp chest pain, if the pain doesn’t go away after a couple of minutes, you should seek emergency care immediately — especially if the pain is combined with sweating, shaking, confusion, and/or shortness of breath.

3. New confusion

A good sign you need to go to the hospital for COVID is sudden confusion combined with cold, clammy skin, feeling faint, and/or having a racing heart. New confusion can be a good indication that something is going on with the brain and can be described as disorientation or delirium.

4. Inability to stay awake

Fatigue is a common symptom of COVID-19 and isn’t necessarily something to be concerned about on its own. However, if you experience an inability to stay awake combined with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, a racing heart, dizziness, or severe back pain, you need to seek emergency medical attention immediately.

5. Bluing of your lips, face, or hands

Bluing of the lips, face, or hands is one of the most obvious ways to know when to go to the ER for COVID-19. The bluish discoloration is due to a lack of oxygen in the body. If you notice a bluish, gray, or pale hinge to your skin, specifically around your lips, face, and fingernails, do not wait to seek emergency medical treatment.

To track your blood oxygen levels at home, you can use a pulse oximeter. This is a great way to tell where your oxygen saturation is even before you begin experiencing bluish discoloration. Call your doctor if you are reading levels at or below 92% and seek emergency care immediately if your levels are at or below 88%.

Should I go to the hospital if I have mild COVID-19 symptoms?

Although mild COVID symptoms are still no fun, they are not a reason to head into the hospital unless you begin noticing the symptoms listed above. Many people with cases of mild COVID are able to rest and recover at home without medical intervention. 

As with most viruses, getting plenty of fluids and rest is the key to getting better. If your symptoms persist or become bothersome, talk to your doctor about which over-the-counter medications would be best for you. They may suggest trying Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cough suppressants, or other cold medicines to help manage symptoms such as fever, headaches, body aches, or coughing.

Worried about COVID symptoms? Head to a Complete Care near you!

One way you’ll know when to go to the ER for COVID-19 is if you are experiencing a combination of symptoms including difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, sudden confusion, an inability to stay awake, and/or bluing of your lips, face, or hands. Though keep in mind that these are not the only reasons to go to the ER with COVID. If you notice any symptoms that worry you, do not hesitate to head into the emergency room.

Looking for emergency care COVID testing? Complete Care is here for you. 

We offer in-house rapid antigen testing, send-out PCR testing, or a molecular testing panel (at most locations) that looks at 20+ different respiratory targets including COVID-19. Not to mention that we offer onsite ER imaging and are fully staffed with experienced doctors, nurses, and radio technologists — all ready to help diagnose and treat any of the symptoms you are concerned about.

For any other medical emergencies, find a Complete Care ER location near you.

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