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At what point should somebody call 911?

If you are in need of immediate medical assistance, calling 911 is crucial in getting timely and perhaps life saving care. Here are the key symptoms and situations that warrant a 911 call:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should seek emergency medical attention and call 911 if someone is showing any of these signs:

  • Trouble breathing: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath is a serious symptom that requires immediate attention.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest: Continuous chest pain or pressure can indicate a severe complication.
  • Confusion: Sudden confusion or inability to stay awake.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake: If the person is unusually drowsy or difficult to wake.
  • Bluish lips or face: This can be a sign of low oxygen levels.

General Medical Emergencies

Other situations that require calling 911 include:

  • Severe allergic reactions: Known as anaphylaxis, symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, hives, and severe itching.
  • Signs of a heart attack: These include chest pain or discomfort, pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness.
  • Signs of a stroke: Use the acronym FAST to recognize stroke symptoms:
    • Face drooping
    • Arm weakness
    • Speech difficulty
    • Time to call 911
  • Severe burns: Large burns or burns that cover a significant portion of the body.
  • Major injuries: Such as broken bones, deep wounds, or severe bleeding that does not stop by applying pressure.
  • Seizures: Especially if the person has never had a seizure before or the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • Sudden severe headache: Especially if it's the worst headache of the person's life, which could indicate a brain hemorrhage.
  • Difficulty breathing: Severe shortness of breath that is not related to COVID-19.
  • Poisoning or overdose: If someone has ingested poison or overdosed on drugs, call 911 immediately.



If you or someone else is experiencing any of these severe symptoms or situations, it's essential to call 911 immediately to get the necessary medical help. Acting quickly can make a significant difference in the outcome of many emergency situations.

This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

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