When to Visit an Urgent Care Center

Americans young and old will sometimes suffer from medical problems or illnesses that call for professional medical care, and different types of medical centers are out there to help. Someone with minor, non life-threatening medical issues may visit urgent care centers in their area, and in many cases, a patient may be able transport themselves to that urgent care site. Meanwhile, a serious medical case calls for the emergency room, often in a hospital. When that happens, a responsible adult must look for emergency care centers nearby for the victim, and this may involve an online search on a PC or smart phone. The person may enter “emergency care near me” and include their ZIP code to find local results, and at an odd time of day, they may specify that they need 24 hour emergency care. What is the difference between urgent care centers and emergency care clinics? And what about pediatrics?

Emergency Care Done Right

If a victim’s life is in danger, that person needs emergency (not urgent) care right away to get out of harm’s way. This may mean going to a hospital’s ER (emergency room), or to an emergency clinic nearby. The doctors and physicians on staff there will have the training, medicine, and tools needed to save a patient’s life. A victim may be taken to emergency care, for example, if they are suffering from serious chest pain or difficulty breathing, both of which can easily turn life-threatening at any moment (if that’s not already the case). Patients at emergency care may also have bullet or stab wounds, heavy bleeding, broken arms or legs, or even damaged organs. Head or eye injuries, such as a cracked skull or a concussion, also need to see emergency care. What is more, some clinics today are in fact hybrids, meaning that they offer both emergency and urgent care for any patient. This makes for a flexible clinic, and that is good news since some Americans are unsure whether they or a nearby victim needs urgent or emergency care. Hybrid clinics like these can accept those patients in either case.

Urgent Care Centers and Pediatrics

Not everyone needs to visit an emergency room. More often, Americans suffer from everyday, minor health issues that call for visiting urgent care centers instead. Someone who only needs sunburn ointment or flu medicine, for example, certainly doesn’t need an emergency room visit. Rather, these patients may visit or be taken to any of the thousands of urgent care centers and walk in clinics found across the United States. Ever since the 1990s, many of these centers have been built, with all cities and many towns having at least a few of them. The nurse practitioners and physicians on staff can handle a wide variety of minor health problems among their patients, and most such clinics will also have trained pharmacists on staff at the clinic’s pharmacy. Many of these clinics are built into strip malls for easy access, though some may be found inside retailers such as Target or Walmart. Yet others may in fact be found inside a hospital, offering distinct care from the hospital at large.

Patients may visit urgent care centers if they need a prescription drug refill, or they may visit to get medicinal relief from the common cold or flu during influenza season. The nurses on staff can provide stitches and bandages for shallow cuts, and they may provide braces for ankle or wrist sprains. Four in five such clinics also offer treatment for bone fractures, and they can also provide lotion for bad rashes or sunburn. Upper respiratory issues are another common reason to visit an urgent care center.

For patients under age 18, parents can look for pediatric urgent care clinics if their child is ill or hurt, but doesn’t need an emergency room. In this case, parents can look online for a pediatric care center if they don’t already know one, and the trained pediatricians on staff may diagnose problems with a child and offer treatment. This is helpful for everyday scrapes or illnesses when the child’s personal pediatrician is not available for help, such as at an odd time of day.

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