When to Go to Urgent Care and When to Go to the ER

Local urgent care

When an emergency strikes, it is hard to know where you should seek medical attention. How are you supposed to know if it is life threatening, emergency room status or medical urgent care attention you need? Knowing the difference between urgent care and emergency care is extremely important to keeping you and your loved ones safe. First let’s cover the emergency room.

The emergency room is supposed to be fast pace and for life saving measures. However, just under half of the adults surveyed at an emergency room were there for issues that could have been taken care of at an urgent care. Below are a few of the conditions that are considered medical emergencies and need to be seen to in the ER:

  1. Persistent chest pain
  2. Persistent shortness of breath or wheezing
  3. Severe pain, especially in the stomach or back
  4. Loss of balance or fainting
  5. Difficulty speaking
  6. An altered mental status or confusion
  7. Weakness or paralysis
  8. Severe heart palpitations
  9. Sudden, severe headache
  10. Baby under one years old with a fever higher than 100.4
  11. Intestinal bleeding
  12. Loss of vision
  13. Head and eye injuries
  14. Broken bones or dislocated joints
  15. Cuts that would require stitches
  16. High fevers or fevers with rash
  17. Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  18. Serious burns
  19. Seizures without a previous diagnosis of epilepsy.

Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Generally, the wait can be up to several hours.

Urgent care is a calmer environment, suited for non-emergent conditions. You can walk in to an urgent care just like you can an ER and be treated immediately. Below are the reasons you would visit an urgent care.

  1. Fever without rash
  2. Common sprain or fractures
  3. Painful urination
  4. Persistent diarrhea
  5. Severe sore throat
  6. Vomiting

About 60% of medical urgent care centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes. If that does not sound appealing then I do not know what does. Urgent cares are usually of repairing fractures as well as providing intravenous fluids when necessary. For the most part, medical urgent care hours are during normal business hours and later, some staying open til midnight. This includes evenings and weekends. Urgent care can tend to be much less expensive than the emergency room.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are unsure about your symptom, go to the emergency room. If you do know your condition is not life threatening, urgent care it is but better to be safe than sorry. Of course, then there is the question of when to call 911. This is necessary when you have an emergent situation that is critical and you are unsure as to whether the person in need of treatment will make it to the hospital in time, at the normal speed limit. A few times that it is right to call 911 are:

  1. Heart attack or stroke
  2. House fire
  3. Domestic violence
  4. Burglary or theft in progress
  5. Car accident with life threatening injuries
  6. Suspicious activities in your view
  7. Anytime you are unsure if something is an emergency.

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