The ER or Urgent Care: Know Which One to Choose

The ER or Urgent Care: Know Which One to ChooseMany times injury or illness happens rather quickly; your child falls off the playground equipment at the local park; you slip and fall on ice and this leads to ankle pain and swelling; maybe your husband wakes up in the middle of the night complaining of intense abdominal pain. When situations such as these occur we are often uncertain about where to go for treatment. It can make it even harder to decide what to do if it is the weekend or a holiday and the doctor’s office will be closed for several days. No one wants to wait for hours in an emergency room only to be told that the issue is not serious. On the other hand getting appropriate treatment can save your life in a medical emergency. Knowing the difference between emergency and urgent care and choosing the right one for your symptoms can save your life in a medical emergency.

What Is the Difference Between the Emergency Room and Urgent Care?

Emergency rooms are open all of the time. They do not close and most are very busy. This means that you will typically have to wait a long time to get treated. In spite of this emergency rooms are the best place for treating life-threatening and severe illnesses and injuries. They have a wide variety of services for emergency care that is available after-hours including access to diagnostic tests and specialists. The level of care and testing available at emergency rooms make them the most expensive place to get treatment. The following life-threatening symptoms should always be treated at the emergency room as urgent care centers often do not have the testing and equipment to address these issues. It is best to call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room right away for any of the symptoms below. This is not an exhaustive list so it is always best to obtain the advice of medical professional right away for any symptoms that you are concerned about.

  • Serious allergic reactions to drugs, insect bites or food, such as difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Head injuries
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Unconsciousness
  • Bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Severe wounds or serious burns

So what if your child has fallen down and possibly has broken a bone? For these types of injuries, you can head to urgent care. Urgent care centers can handle an array of illnesses and injuries, as long as they are not non-life threatening. Many urgent care centers are open on holidays and weekends. In addition, many have extended hours during the day and in the evening. Most have doctors and nurses and a lab and X-ray right onsite.


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