Urgent Care or ER? How to Recognize a Health Emergency

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Emergency healthcare services are vital to our healthcare system, but they are often overused for minor illnesses and injuries. While in many cases it is important to get to an emergency room as soon as possible, more minor, yet urgent, health problems can be treated at urgent care centers.

Many people have trouble distinguishing emergencies from urgent health problems, though, so here are a few examples.

Emergency healthcare services are necessary in any situation where a life may be at risk. This includes:

  • Chest pains or trouble breathing
  • Compound fractures
  • Fevers in newborn babies
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Deep gunshot or puncture wounds
  • Severe burns
  • Head, neck, or spine trauma
  • Signs of heart attack or stroke
  • Poisoning (chemical)
  • Any pregnancy-related issue
  • Seizures, convulsions, or loss of consciousness
  • Thoughts of homicide or suicide

These problems call for immediate medical attention. While urgent care facilities are capable of handling the majority of cases that an emergency room sees, these centers are not substitutes for emergency care. If you arrive to an urgent care facility with any of these symptoms or conditions, you will be immediately transported to the nearest emergency facility.

But for those unbearable, persisting problems, an urgent care center may be your best choice. One of the most common reasons people see a physician at an urgent care facility is because their primary care physician’s office is closed. In these instances, urgent care provides easy access to affordable care that is necessary for the patient. Some minor illnesses and injuries that someone may go to urgent care for are:

  • Sore throats
  • Sprains and muscle strains
  • Fever or flu (over three months of age)
  • Sinus infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Diagnostic services, like x-rays
  • STD testing
  • Skin rashes or minor allergic reactions
  • Minor fractures

If you are having any of these problems, you may drive yourself to urgent care, but you should probably have someone drive you are severely uncomfortable.

If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 immediately. In very few instances is it acceptable for someone to be driven to the emergency room. In most, an ambulance with trained EMTs and first responders is the best way to be transported. In case something happens to you in transit, these individuals are able to react and give you stabilizing care.

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