Urgent Care vs. ER: When Should You Look for Emergency Care

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

Unexpected medical emergencies are a nuisance and sometimes unavoidable. Appropriately assessing your health issue can help you choose the best place to seek professional care, potentially saving you time and money. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making the decision to visit urgent care or the emergency room.

Urgent Care

Urgent care is the best option if your regular physician is not available and you don’t believe it is a good idea to wait for the next available appointment. Urgent care facility wait time is often shorter, and could be less expensive.

Most retail health clinics and urgent care facilities can treat:

  • Low fever
  • Minor cuts
  • Minor flu or cold symptoms
  • Minor infections
  • Minor trauma (ex: broken finger)
  • Rashes
  • Small cuts
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Vomiting

Emergency Room

Emergency room visits should be reserved for medical issues requiring immediate professional care. Often the wait time at the E.R. is very long, as patients with more severe injuries or illnesses are treated first. The benefit of going to the E.R. instead of urgent care is that since you are at a hospital, the healthcare professionals are prepared for any medical issues that come their way. If you are experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency and there is no one around to take you to the hospital, call an ambulance immediately.

You should go to the emergency room for treatment of things like:

  • Chest pain
  • Deep wound or laceration requiring stitches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High fever
  • Injury to the eyes or head
  • Major broken bones
  • Numbness on one side of your body
  • Persistent or heavy bleeding
  • Poisoning
  • Seizure
  • Severe burn
  • Severe heart palpitations
  • Sudden head pain
  • Sudden weakness or trouble walking
  • Vision loss or sudden change in vision


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