Wellness Matters

Urgent Care or ER – How Do You Decide?

April 28, 2015

Your head is hurting so bad you can’t tolerate noise or light; your finger won’t stop bleeding; and your arm is blistering from a hot-grease burn. Which one should cause you to head to an urgent care center?

The answer – all of the above.

Emergency room, urgent care or waiting to check with your doctor in the morning, is a dilemma many people face. Just how bad is it is the question we keep asking? Urgent care centers are designed to deal with illnesses or injury that can’t wait until the next day, but don’t appear serious enough for the emergency room. All across the country, urgent care centers provide easy access to quality health care. Most are open days, nights, weekends, and most holidays.
So what is considered an emergency? An emergency condition is one that can permanently impair or endanger your life. In essence, chest pains and other severe injuries are considered emergencies. The following are emergency situations and should result in a trip to the emergency room:
  • Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Compound fracture (bone protrudes through the skin)
  • Convulsions, seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Fever in newborn (less than three months old)
  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
  • Deep knife wounds or gunshot wounds
  • Moderate to severe burns
  • Poisoning
  • Serious head, neck or back injury
  • Pregnancy-related problems
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Signs of heart attack - chest pain lasting longer than two minutes
  • Signs of stroke - loss of vision, sudden numbness, weakness, slurred speech or confusion
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
So then when is it OK if you head to an urgent care facility? The following symptoms or conditions may mean you should find an urgent care center:
  • Accidents and falls
  • Sprains and strains
  • Moderate back problems
  • Breathing difficulties - mild to moderate asthma
  • Bleeding/cuts - not bleeding a lot but looks like it might require stitches
  • Diagnostic services are needed, including X-rays and laboratory tests
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Fever or flu
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
  • Severe sore throat or cough
  • Minor broken bones and fractures  - fingers and toes
  • Skin rashes and infections
  • Urinary tract infections
When in doubt, call your primary care physician. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.


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