For the majority of people, the occasional headache shouldn't cause concern. However, the sudden onset of a prolonged headache may require a visit to the emergency department.

If you're not sure whether your headache requires emergency care, consider these guidelines.

If you have these symptoms, you may require emergency care

If you experience the sudden onset of a headache that interferes with daily tasks or is debilitating, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the headache is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Fever
  • Severe pain that begins suddenly
  • Other neurological symptoms, including weakness, numbness, slurred speech and blurred vision

If you have these medical conditions, you may require emergency care

For individuals with certain medical histories, a headache could potentially indicate a more serious issue. If you have any of these medical conditions, and you experience a severe, debilitating headache, you should visit an emergency department:

  • Previous head injury
  • A recent injury or trauma
  • Use of blood thinners

Women who use oral contraceptives have an increased risk of blood clots, which may cause headaches. This is particularly true for women who smoke.

Wesley EmergencyCare Network ERs

Online ER Check-in

Patients can complete advance check-in to any of Wesley's four emergency rooms with a free mobile app available for Apple iPhones in iTunes and for Android phones in the Google Play App Store. Patients can also complete advance registration at www.wesleyercheckin.com. Users simply select which Wesley facility they would like to go to and fill out a few required fields. The selected ER will be instantly notified, enabling the ER staff to better prepare for the patient's arrival. The app and website include the facilities' average wait times so patients can better plan their visit.

ER Average Wait Times

ER wait times are approximate and provided for informational purposes only. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

The ER wait time represents the time it takes to see a qualified medical professional, defined as a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), Physician Assistant (PA) or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP).

ER wait times represent a four-hour rolling average updated every 30 minutes, and is defined as the time of patient arrival until the time the patient is greeted by a qualified medical professional. Patients are triaged at arrival and are then seen by a qualified medical professional in priority order based on their presenting complaint and reason for visit.

Ready Care

Wesley's main emergency department also provides Ready Care services, an “express lane” through the emergency department in a convenient, timely setting. These services are an alternative care route to the regular emergency department where treatment is determined on the severity of the patient's condition. Ready Care is ideal for patients who need immediate care for small emergencies, such as sprains, sore throats, ear infections and rashes. The service area is managed by providers trained in emergency medicine and is fully supervised by board-certified physicians. Patients are referred to the area through the regular emergency department.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911 or seek medical attention immediately.