Should I call 911?

Sometimes it’s not obvious when and when not to dial those digits. The common rule: Dial 911 any time there’s a threat to life or property. Take a look below at some more in depth explanations based on knowledge from a first aid expert on when to call 911. When in doubt, always call.

Here are some examples of when you should call 911:

Heart/Lung Problems:

  • Unrelieved shortness of breath (SOB)
  • Pain/discomfort in neck, jaw, back, one or both arms
  • Confusion

Chest Pain:

  • Sudden, unrelieved, severe, or prolonged chest pain

High Blood Pressure:

  • Blood pressure is above 180/90
  • Sudden severe unusual headache

Breathing Problems:

  • Extreme difficulty breathing
  • Unrelieved shortness of breath (SOB); SOB at rest
  • Difficulty walking and talking due to SOB
  • Fingernails or lips are blue
  • Skin color is pale or gray
  • Usual activities severely limited
  • Frothy sputum (spit)
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Peak flow < 50% of personal best

Too Much Blood Thinner:

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Black bowel movements/stool
  • Throwing up bright red blood or if it looks like coffee grounds


  • Bleeding with confusion, weakness, dizziness and fainting
  • Fruity breath
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood sugar not responding to home treatment
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures

Signs of Infection:

  • Fever above 38.5 ̊C/ 101.3F with chills or confusion
  • Bleeding that will not stop

Trouble Thinking:

  • Plan of hurting self or someone else
  • Sudden difficulty speaking/slurred speech
  • Confusion

Trouble Moving/Fall

  • Fall
  • Sudden loss of balance
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden difficulty speaking/slurred speech

Information for this page was based on an article from a first aid expert. For the full article go to: