When should I use urgent care instead of the ER?

When should I use urgent care instead of the ER?

There are times when you may find yourself wondering whether your symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room or if they could be handled by doctors at an urgent care facility.  It can be confusing to know which place would better suit your needs at the time you actually are in need because your thoughts may be clouded by pain or illness.  However, there is one thing you should keep in mind: urgent care facilities are not usually equipped to handle emergencies. 

You will need to visit the ER for emergencies such as:
  • Severe or persistent chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Any severe pain
  • Loss of balance or fainting
  • Sudden difficulty speaking
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Sudden testicular pain and swelling
  • Newborn baby with a fever
  • Falls that cause injury
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Deep cuts or large open wounds that won’t stop bleeding
  • Head or eye injuries
  • High fevers or fevers with rash
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Severe and persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Serious burns
  • Undiagnosed seizures

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger or if you cannot safely get to an emergency room on your own.

Urgent care facilities are to be used in place of your regular doctor when your regular doctor is not available.  For example, your doctor may not have weekend office hours, but you wake up one Saturday morning with a bad earache.  Visiting an urgent care facility would be warranted in that case because waiting until Monday would leave you in a lot of pain all weekend, but it is not necessarily an emergency.  Some other reasons to visit an urgent care facility include vomiting, persistent diarrhea, sore throat, painful urination, fever, and minor injuries like bruises or shallow cuts.

Check your health insurance policy to see what coverage is available for both emergency room and urgent care visits.

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