|PHOTO | UNSPLASH|
|Ignoring chest pain, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a bad idea because it could lead to bigger issues.|
Don’t let fear keep you from getting the medical care you need.
A global pandemic may make you feel uneasy about going to a hospital to seek treatment. Time is critical when it comes to healthcare, particularly heart health. Novant Health cardiologist Dr. Mark Mitchell explained that people have understandable concerns about potential exposure to COVID-19, but ignoring chest pain could lead to bigger issues.
“If you’re experiencing chest pains, your biggest risk isn’t COVID. It’s a heart attack,” he said. “Time is muscle.”
The longer someone waits to seek coronary treatment, the more damage the muscle may sustain. Minutes matter when it comes to the heart, and you should get to the hospital within 30 minutes of symptoms presenting. Heart muscle damage becomes more significant after 90 minutes have passed. Avoiding treatment may lead to congestive heart failure and ultimately death. The most common sign of a heart attack is tightness in the chest. However, additional symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, jaw pain, as well as arm or elbow pain.
Doctors treating fewer patients for heart issues and stroke, not because of a decrease in heart attacks or strokes, but due to fear of COVID-19. Delaying treatment can lead to permanent brain damage when suffering from a stroke.
“When COVID first started raging through the United States, a message was disseminated to the public: Stay away from [emergency rooms],” Mitchell said. “They have to make room for all the COVID patients. And that was true in cities like New York and New Orleans. But even during a pandemic, people have other health problems.”
Emergency rooms look different since the pandemic. Novant Health has separate waiting and treatment areas for COVID-19 patients. Hospital staff members wear masks, and patients are given one upon arrival if they did not arrive wearing a face covering.
“Visitors aren’t allowed any more, which helps cut down on the risk of spread,” Mitchell said. “Ambulances are being thoroughly cleaned between patients. Every precaution is being taken to safeguard patients and staff. Ambulances are being thoroughly sanitized between patients.”
Typically busy emergency rooms have seen a decrease in traffic due to COVID-19 fears. Waiting is a dangerous game to play. Seek the help you need.
“One woman in her 50s came by ambulance with a body temperature of 88” degrees, said Novant Health ER nurse Sarah Drake. “I’ve never seen a temperature that low in my career. She was diabetic and was about to be put on dialysis. She was lethargic and had been vomiting all day the previous day. She knew she needed medical attention, but COVID scared her into staying home.”