Besides knowing when to seek medical care, it is also essential to know where to seek it. A hospital or health care facility has several departments to allow for a smooth process and ensure those who need priority treatment will receive it.
Most people often do not know whether to go to urgent care or the emergency room (ER) for their urgent health situation. Going to the wrong setting creates a problem for someone who needs a different or more aggressive kind of treatment than is available.
Choosing the right facility can save effort, time, and money. It is important to know the right place to go for treatment, especially during a pandemic, which can minimize any unnecessary risk of exposure to infections. Call the health care provider’s office and take the necessary guidance when not sure where to go.
When to go to the ER
Emergency rooms are well equipped to manage emergency health conditions, especially those that are serious, potentially disabling, or life-threatening. Seeking treatment in an ER can be quite expensive and may cost two to three times more than the same care in a doctor's office.
Thus, before proceeding to the ER, a person must know how quickly the treatment is required. A simple question to ask yourself is, “Is an urgent treatment needed to prevent a permanent disability or death of a person or an unborn baby?” If the answer is “yes,” then rush to the ER, call 911 or the local emergency helpline number right away. Some of the conditions needing management in the ER include:
- The head injury along with fainting, confusion, or passing out
- Cessation of or severe difficulty breathing
- Severe burn injury
- Signs of a stroke, such as weakness or paralysis of any limb, deviation of the angle of mouth, unconsciousness, inability to speak, or sudden onset of a bad headache
- Injury to the neck or spine
- Electric shock or lightning strike
- Severe chest pain or pressure, or severe pain in the arm or jaw
- Seizures or abnormal movements lasting for three to five minutes
- Trouble breathing
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Dizziness, weakness, or passing out
- Smoke or poisonous fumes inhalation
- Broken bones (may present as sudden onset of swelling, loss of movement, or severe pain)
- Deep wounds (a person can see the muscle, bone, or a bleeding blood vessel, or there is intense swelling)
- Coughing up or throwing up of blood
- Severe pain in any part of the body
- Emotional or mental health emergency, such as suicidal thoughts or severe panic attacks
- Severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, severe rashes, or passing out
- Neck stiffness and headache with fever
- Medicine overdose with serious signs, such as fainting or confusion
- Uncontrolled vomiting or loose stools
- Poisonings, including alcohol or recreational drug overdose
- Gunshot injuries
- Severe abdominal pain
- Fever in a baby less than two weeks of age
When to visit the urgent care center
Urgent care facilities are equipped to address urgent health situations that are less serious than those needing an ER. Such conditions are the ones where treatment is needed within 24 hours and not immediately. Hence, if the medical condition is not potentially fatal or disabling or the concerned doctor is not available, go to the urgent care center.
Taking a prior appointment at the center will further limit waiting time at the facility. Some of the conditions that can be managed at an urgent care center include:
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Medline Plus. When to Use the Emergency Room – Adult. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000593.htm