If your condition is not life-threatening, then your primary care physician should be your first call. If your primary care doctor is not available, you’re afforded other options.

Emergency rooms at hospitals offer inpatient care, emergency and trauma aid 24 hours a day and are prepared to handle potential life-threatening situations. Urgent care centers are similar to primary care providers. They supply comprehensive quality care, on a walk-in basis, when your primary care isn’t available. Urgent care centers have fixed, yet flexible, hours of operation.

In some instances, wait-time differs between the two choices. Emergency rooms treat patients based on the severity of their condition. Urgent care centers see patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Dr. Ian Greenwald says, “If you’re experiencing the effects of the flu, urgent care may be your best option.”

Cost is another factor that separates the two facilities. Typically, a visit to the emergency room will cost more than a visit to urgent care. Emergency rooms at hospitals offer more to those seeking treatment. They house equipment that is critical when faced with a life-threatening situation. Urgent care facilities are well-equipped to handle minor aches and pains and x-rays.

Emergency rooms at hospitals have specialists on call to handle a health crisis such as a heart attack. Dr. Greenwald says, “There is no debate when dealing with the heart. If you experience chest pains going to the emergency room at a hospital is the right course of action.”

I’m Allergic to Bee Stings. I Was Just Stung by a Wasp. Do I Need Emergent Care?

YES! Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction to a sting for those severely allergic. Emergency treatment is needed.  But what about that stabbing pain from an earache? Is that emergent or urgent?

Your path to recovery begins the first few moments after injury or medical dilemma. It is human nature to react hastily when faced with a frightening moment, but trust your gut feeling. Yes, this ear infection is brining tears to my eyes, but is it life threatening? The way you respond can shape the extent of a medical crisis.

Where to seek treatment really boils down to two questions.  “Does this pose an immediate danger to my life?” or “If I do not get help immediately will my health be permanently affected?” If the answer to either of those questions is “Yes” then emergent care is imperative.

When to Seek Emergent Care

Persistent Chest or Abdominal Pain or Pressure
Breathing Difficulties
Head Injury
Broken Bones
Seizure or Loss of Consciousness
Numbness or Paralysis of Extremities
Sudden Speech Slurring, Changes in Vision, or Weakness
Major Burns
Severe Allergic Reaction to Food, Medication, or Insect Bite
Bleeding That Continues After Ten Minutes of Direct Pressure
Poisoning

When to Seek Urgent Care

Cold, Cough, or Flu
Sinus Infections
Urinary Tract Infections
Respiratory Infections
Mild Fever
Abrasions and Minor Cuts
Sprains and Strains

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