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HeadWay, Issue #181 Frustration in the Emergency Room
September 21, 2019

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In this issue:

Frustration in the Emergency Room

New at Headache and Migraine News...

Say what?! Infusion Centre

Frustration in the Emergency Room

If you've ever gone to "Emergency" in the hospital, you know that it can be a frustrating experience. If you have issues with headache or migraine, is there any way to make things better?

Well, that could be a long conversation. But today we're going to look at a few things that you need to know before you head to the local emergency room.

A Problem of Perspective

Part of the issue is how we view emergency. Doctors - and often patients - see emergency as a place for life-threatening and time-sensitive problems. So how does a "headache" fit into the picture? You might forgive a doctor for getting frustrated when someone with a "headache" is taking up their time when someone in the next bed almost lost their life today.

But you should not feel guilty about being in emergency, and doctors should be happy to help you, as long as you remember three things.
  1. If you're experiencing a new type of headache, or a worst-ever headache, this could indeed be life-threatening. For a "new" headache that is not severe, a doctor's visit in the morning may be sufficient. But a severe and worst-ever headache is worth dealing with immediately.
  2. Headache disorders can be extremely disabling. Partial paralysis, dizziness, visual problems - if you are very disabled by a sudden headache, doctors need to realize that this is indeed a serious situation. That doesn't mean you go to emergency every week if you get an attack every week - there are ways to plan. But again, an unusual and severe headache or migraine attack is serious.
  3. Be prepared. You can help the doctors and nurses help you, if you help them. Do you have information at your fingertips about medical history, medications you're on, and what allergies you may have? Insurance info? Emergency contacts? One piece of paper in your purse or wallet can save you a lot of hassle.
The Power of Communication

It's hard to communicate when you're simply writhing with pain - trust me, I know. But think ahead of time about how you could communicate with health professionals in an emergency. "Just give me Demerol" is not the way to go.

Besides the information you should have with you on the above mentioned sheet of paper, explain your symptoms, and how disabling they are. "Worst-ever" headache? Tell them. Why else are you disabled? Extreme nausea. Vertigo. A feeling of pins and needles. Muscle weakness. Try to be aware of your symptoms.

You may also want to (humbly!) make some recommendations. Some of the best ways to do this are by saying "This happened once before, and this is what worked. What do you think?" or better "My doctor/specialist recommended these to me - would that work in this situation?"

Below are some more resources to empower you if you ever need to go to emergency. Knowing what is often available will also set your mind at ease that the staff know what they're doing.


Going to emergency is never fun, but with some forethought it can be a lot better. Remember, a headache can indicate a life-threatening problem. Even if not, it can be severely disabling. Doctors, let's find ways to make it easier for patients to find treatment. Patients, let's help our doctors help us.

To learn more...

New at Headache and Migraine News...

Don't miss these recent articles at Headache and Migraine News:

Say what?! Infusion Centre

Today, many clinics are opening what they call an infusion centre (or center!) for those with migraine and other issues. An infusion centre can give you many emergency-type treatments - infusions, of course - often in a much more migraine-friendly environment.
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