Chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, andheart and respiratory ailments, account for a lot of costly visits to the emergency department (ED).
“People with chronic conditions are often unable to see their primary care physician in a timely manner before their symptoms worsen,” explains Steven Moonblatt, MD, Riddle Hospital Emergency Department physician.
Make a Plan
Having a plan to control your condition can help you improve your health, lower your costs, and avoid emergencies. Try these strategies:
● Take your medications as instructed and on time.
● Make lifestyle changes if needed. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, improving your diet, starting an exercise routine, or losing weight can make you feel better in the short and long term.
● Check your symptoms regularly. This is especially important for people with diabetes, who should monitor their blood sugar levels every day.
● Take action when your symptoms indicate a problem. For example, if you have asthma and your peak flow is down, or you have diabetes and your blood sugar is low, take the corrective steps your doctor has advised.
For Asthma and Diabetes
People with these conditions can take specific steps to avoid emergencies.
“People with severe asthma may not be able to see their physician before their symptoms reach a point where they need emergency care,” says Dr. Moonblatt. “If the medication or treatment that a patient normally uses isn’t helping, this may mean that the condition is more severe than normal and needs further evaluation.”
Creating a plan that records your asthma symptoms and identifies your triggers can help. It should also help you decide when to take your management and rescue medications and when to seek emergency medical care. People with diabetes are at risk for life-threatening ketoacidosis, which requires immediate ED treatment. Knowing the warning signs and checking urine and blood for evidence of problems can head off this dangerous complication.
What’s an Emergency?
No matter what your chronic condition—and even if you don’t have one—you should know what an emergency is. Most Americans who go to an ED don’t need urgent care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
“Symptoms that are atypical or more severe than normal may mean the problem isn’t routine and warrants emergency care,” explains Dr. Moonblatt.“If you’re unsure, you should always call your doctor to discuss your symptoms or, if need be, come to the ED for evaluation.”