Emergency Care or Urgent Care?

Illnesses and injuries don’t always happen during regular office hours.

If you need care when your regular doctor isn’t available, how do you know whether to seek care at the hospital emergency department or an urgent care center? Below are some guidelines.

Emergency Care

A hospital emergency department is designed to treat serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries and is always open.

When to seek emergency care:

  • If your doctor tells you to
  • If you are injured in a car accident
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Fall from a significant height
  • Serious head or neck injury
  • Any loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • High fever that doesn’t get better with medicine
  • Bone fracture with open wound
  • After swallowing poison
  • Seizure
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe burns
  • Electric shock
  • Suspicion of exposure to a serious communicable disease
  • Choking
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Unusual or bad headache

Urgent Care

An urgent care center is designed to supplement your family doctor’s care after hours, on weekends, or when you are unable to get an appointment. Hours vary but are generally limited to daytime; some offer evening hours.

When to go to an urgent care center:

  • If your doctor tells you to
  • If your doctor can’t be reached and the condition isn’t serious
  • Colds, coughs, flu, fever
  • Minor injuries such as a sprain
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Allergies
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Minor burns
  • Minor cuts
  • Pink eye
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Need for stitches
  • Migraine
  • Urinary tract infections
To reduce the chances you will need emergency or urgent care, establish a relationship with a primary care doctor for regular care.

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