Accidents and illness come without warning, so it is important to arm yourself with the information you need to best advocate for your health. Once you decide that you would like to seek professional medical attention, consider your options based on your situation. There are some instances where it may be more appropriate (and cost effective) to visit your local urgent care center rather than going to the emergency room.
According to Healthgrades, the median wait time to see a doctor in a U.S. emergency room is about 30 minutes with a median treatment time of 90 minutes. A visit to an urgent care center, on the other hand, is often less time consuming and significantly less costly than an emergency room visit.
Here is a list of the signs and symptoms that you should look for when you’re deciding whether to go to urgent care or the emergency room:
The emergency room is intended for patients with medical conditions that require rapid or advanced treatments. If you are unsure, stay on safe side and head to the nearest hospital.
According to Scripps, the symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Weakness/numbness on one side
- Slurred speech
- Fainting/change in mental state
- Serious burns
- Head or eye injury
- Broken bones and dislocated joints
- Fever with a rash
- Severe cuts that may require stitches
- Facial lacerations
- Severe cold or flu symptoms
- Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy.
If you do choose to go to the emergency room, whether by ambulance or with the assistance from a friend or loved one, be sure to advocate for yourself and your health by providing your doctors and paramedics with as much information as you can, asking a friend or loved one to join you so they can advocate on your behalf, asking questions, and asking for paper copies of test results, discharge instructions, and any other information that you may need.
Urgent care centers handle non-life-threatening conditions that require medical attention within 24 to 48 hours, while the emergency room is intended for patients that need immediate medical attention to prevent serious harm to your health. Urgent care centers are able to perform X rays and minor procedures like stitching cuts, though not all urgent care centers offer the same services.
Consider visiting a local urgent care center for conditions such as:
- Animal bites
- Broken bones
- Coughs, sore throats, high fevers, and flu
- Cuts that require stitches
- Earaches and sinus pain
- Eye problems
- Minor burns
- Minor headaches and breathing problems
- Rashes and skin problems
- Sports injuries
- Urinary tract infections
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach or belly pain
It is important to note that urgent care centers are not a substitute for your primary care physician or emergency care, so it’s important to do your research before making your decision.