In 2006, emergency departments across the United States treated more than 119 million cases. The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) released a 2006 Emergency Department Summary that gathered statistics of emergency department use, including the most common reasons adults and children sought medical care and treatment.
Fevers are the top reason children went to the emergency room. Fever with associated symptoms, such as a cough, sinus congestion, headache or cold symptoms, are also common. Additionally, high fevers in children who have a history of fever-induced seizure, or other medical condition, add to the frequency of visits for that reason.
Children are also likely to go to the emergency department with ear pain. Children with a history of otitis media, or ear infection, or who have been recently diagnosed with an ear infection, go to the emergency room more frequently than those with a fresh onset of ear pain. Additionally, complaints of ear pain can be associated with additional symptoms, such as fever.
Strains and sprains are a leading cause of emergency room visits among children and adults, with fractures, bruises and open wounds as additional complaints. Leading causes of injuries include motor vehicle accidents, falls and accidental injuries. Injuries to the head and neck are the most frequently assessed areas of injury in the emergency room.
Complaints of chest pain or discomfort are another major reason patients go to emergency departments. This includes those with a history of past heart attack or other heart conditions, as well as those with new cardiac symptoms, such as upper back pain, chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath or arm pain.
Abdominal pain accounted for 1.7 million emergency room visits in 2005. Abdominal complaints often include general pain in the abdomen, cramping or spasms, and can also include accompanying diarrhea or constipation.
Complaints of back pain often arise because of previous injuries to the back or spine. Additionally, patients with new symptoms of back pain, from either a traumatic or work-related injury, commonly go to the emergency room for treatment.
Shortness of Breath
Trouble breathing, or shortness of breath, is a common complaint for children and adults. Patients suffering from respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or asthma, have more emergency room visits than those with a new onset of breathing difficulty, including children suffering from asthma and pneumonia.