This is one of the most common questions people have when a medical situation arises — whether the patient is a friend, family member, coworker or yourself. Is the situation serious enough to warrant a trip to the Emergency Room? Is the situation perhaps too serious for an urgent care clinic?
Emergency Room (ER)
The Emergency Room is a place for 24 emergency care. Going there is expensive (depending on whether or not you have insurance, what kind of policy you have and whether the facility is in your healthcare network). Nonetheless, in many cases it is absolutely the correct choice. As a general rule, head for the ER if the person in question is suffering any of the following:
- Severe or constant chest pain, especially if the pain is also felt in the limbs or face
- Being short of breath and/or wheezing
- Strong abdominal pain
- Inability to maintain balance or loss of consciousness
- Bones that are clearly broken, or joints that are clearly dislocated
- Persistent vomiting
- Severe burns
- A wound that won’t stop bleeding
- Injuries to the head or eyes
- Lacerations that may require the patient to get stitches
- Very high fevers, particularly when accompanied by a rash
- Sudden complications (especially bleeding) in a pregnant woman
- Unexpected seizures
- Palpitations of the heart
- Severe headache or sudden loss of vision
Obviously, this is only a partial list. If you’re in doubt, or if you suspect that the situation does warrant a visit to the ER, it’s best to be safe and go to the ER. When it comes to serious medical situations, it’s not worth taking risks.
Urgent care is designed for a range of medical situations ranging from mild to urgent, but not dire or life-threatening. The advantage of an urgent care clinic is that, like the ER, it’s possible to show up without an appointment (even outside of normal business hours) and get treatment quickly. A few of the medical conditions commonly treated by the staff at urgent care clinics include:
- Fevers with no rash
- Fractures and sprains
- Cold and flu
- Diarrhea or mild abdominal cramping
- Mild infections of all types
- Many other common conditions (mono, pink-eye, etc.)
Know your meds
Whether you’re headed to the ER or an urgent care clinic, it’s important to know what medications the patient is currently taking. This includes prescriptions meds, over-the-counter meds, and any vitamins or supplements. Doctors at either facility will need this information in order to make sure that none of the treatments they may use are contraindicated. It’s not a bad idea to keep a list of medications on your person, and encourage your family members to do the same, in case something does come up.
ER or urgent care?
Knowing the difference between these two facilities, and what conditions they commonly handle, can make things easier during a difficult moment. Always do your best to stay calm, and never attempt to drive to the ER in a medical emergency. Calling 911 is the fastest, safest way to get help when you or someone you love needs it the most. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and we hope it’s helped to illustrate the difference between the ER and urgent care. Please feel free to leave comments in the area below!