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When Should You Call 911?
Most people know they should call 911 in an emergency. But if you call 911 in a non-emergency situation, you could be keeping emergency responders from a real emergency. So how do you know the difference? Reader’s Digest has some suggestions:
Do call if someone is having a severe allergic reaction with symptoms such as swelling of the throat or tongue, or difficulty breathing. Severe allergic reactions can be fatal quickly.
Don’t call if someone has food poisoning. Although the person probably feels terrible, it is not an emergency. Call a doctor’s office or go to an urgent care center for help.
Do call if someone is showing symptoms of severe breathing problems, including turning blue or severe wheezing.
Don’t call if you think someone might have a concussion. Instead, monitor the symptoms and see a doctor the next day. However, if there is bleeding from the head or face or if the person develops a severe headache, starts vomiting, has slurred speech or loses consciousness, then call 911.
Do call if someone is unconscious or unresponsive. You don’t know what the problem is, so you need immediate professional help. Also call if someone has fallen and seems injured. Don’t try to move the person, because you could make the injury worse.
Don’t call if your child has a fever. Call your doctor or seek urgent care if the fever is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But do call 911 if the fever is that high and the child also is lethargic or experiencing seizures or a stiff neck.
Do call if you hear someone breaking into your house. Never try to investigate the sound of an intruder yourself. Also call if you come home to signs of forced entry and you don’t know if someone is still in the house.
Don’t call if a crime already has been committed. If your car is stolen or someone has spray-painted graffiti on your garage, for example, call the police non-emergency number.
Do call if you are having a medical emergency and you are by yourself. If there is no one else around, don’t try to monitor your condition. If things get worse quickly, there will be no one to call 911 for you.
Don’t call if you are involved in a non-injury car accident. In that case, call the non-emergency line. However, do call 911 if there are injuries or if the accident has created a traffic hazard.
Do call anytime you see someone who appears to be driving drunk, whether or not the person has been involved in an accident. Give the 911 operator information about the car, the location and direction, and what made you think the driver was impaired.
Do call if you see a fire. Don’t try to put the fire out yourself before calling for emergency help.
Don’t call if someone has minor burns, such as from a kitchen accident. If you can’t treat the burn yourself, call a doctor or go to urgent care. And don’t call if someone has a minor cut. If you think stitches are needed, see a doctor or urgent care. But if the wound is very large or deep, or won’t stop bleeding, then call 911.