When Urgent Care vs Emergency Room?

When Urgent Care vs Emergency Room?

Occasionally, you will suddenly suffer from an injury or a sudden onset of an illness such as a stomachache. In such a situation, you may be unsure where to go for medical care. It is especially so if the symptoms seem to be severe yet your regular doctor has closed for the weekend. While the answer might not be that simple, knowing whether to visit the emergency room or urgent care could help to save your life. That is why we at Frontline ER have decided to try to explain to you when to visit the ER instead of urgent care.

The Difference between the ER and Urgent Care

Understanding the differences between these two types of care can be confusing since both imply that there is a medical need, which has to be resolved quickly. However, there are clear differences between urgent care and an emergency room. It is especially so when it comes to the level of care possible at each facility.

An urgent care should be used when you fall sick or are injured but your doctor is not around and you cannot wait for the appointment. Thus, if you fall sick with something that you would feel addressing with your doctor, then an urgent care center will more than suffice. In fact, it would be better than going to the ER.

The emergency room is designed to provide medical care at any time and on any day. Unlike the urgent care center, the ER is equipped and staffed for the most critical cases. These needs include life or limb-threatening cases such as stroke, heart attacks, and major traumatic injuries after car accidents.

When to Visit the ER

If you have a medical condition that you consider an emergency, since it requires advanced and rapid treatment, you need to visit the ER. Some of the symptoms that should cause you to visit the ER are:

  • Persistent pain in the chest, especially when it radiates towards the jaw or arm and is accompanied by vomiting, sweating, and shortness of breath.
  • Sudden loss of balance or fainting
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or trouble understanding what others are saying
  • Sudden paralysis on one side of the body
  • Sudden testicular swelling and pain

Additionally, if you have a baby and they develop a sudden fever accompanied by sweating and heavy breathing, you should go to the ER. In most cases, your instinct will suffice, if you have these or any other symptoms that you feel are an emergency, rush to the ER.

When to call for an ambulance

If you or someone you care for has an emergency, it is not always advisable to drive to the ER. For one, symptoms may get worse on the road and you might cause an accident. Some people are usually nervous about calling for an ambulance. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you are having severe chest pain or feel like you might pass out, it is not a good idea to drive yourself to the ER. Additionally, if you are bleeding severely from a fall or you lost a limb, call for the ambulance. It is one of the quickest ways to get to the ER.

It is especially important to call the ambulance if you have a heart attack or stroke. The paramedics usually have training on how to offer life-saving treatment on your way to the ER.

When to visit an urgent care center

Urgent care and emergency care are quite different. A recent study found that 48 percent of those who went to the ER but were not admitted went there because their doctor’s office was closed. The common practice of using the ER for after-hours care is not advisable. However, most people who do this do not even know that they have another option.

Urgent care centers are same-day clinics, which are able to handle various medical cases that need immediate treatment. However, they are not advisable to be used to treat major emergencies. For instance, if you have minor burns and lacerations, you can visit the ER.

If the symptoms come on gradually or you already have a diagnosis for your condition, urgent care works just great. For instance, if you have recurring urinary tract infection or you know when your child has an ear infection, you can just head to the urgent care center.

If you are unsure, you can call your primary care doctor. Since he knows your medical history, he can confidently tell you when you need to go to the ER or you can go to urgent care. However, it is worth noting that urgent care is not a substitute for your medical doctor. They are an awesome resource when your doctor is not around but they can never be a replacement. For one, an urgent care will not maintain a medical history of your situation once you leave their offices.


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