What to Know About Urgent Care and When You Need It

When you encounter a life-threatening emergency such as a severe head trauma or heart attack, you will have to go to the Emergency Room. However, urgent care centers are there to provide much needed care when a patient is stricken with an injury or illness that does not seem to be life-threatening, but by no means can wait until the next day or until their primary care doctor is available to see them.

During the days and times that primary care physicians are generally closed, an urgent care center will provide quality, easy access health care. Sometimes, however, when faced with a medical situation, it can be hard to tell whether to go to the emergency room or to an urgent care center.
When it’s an Emergency

Urgent care centers are not equipped for serious emergencies, which are considered so if the injury or illness may be permanently damaging or life-threatening. Some examples include:

  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts or feelings
  • Heart attack, or signs of
  • Stroke, or signs of
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Problems related to pregnancy
  • Serious injury to the head, neck, or back
  • Poisoning
  • Mild to severe burns
  • Deep wounds from knife stab or gun shot
  • Heavy bleeding which cannot be controlled
  • Fever in an infant younger than three months
  • Seizures, convulsions, losing consciousness
  • Compound fractures (in which bones pierce through the skin)
  • Severe pain in the chest, difficulty breathing

Situations Appropriate to Urgent Care Centers
Urgent care centers are not equipped to handle the above situations, but the following are situations best handled by urgent care centers:

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Minor bone fractures, breaks (fingers, toes)
  • Severe cough, sore throat
  • Dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Flu and fever
  • Severe eye irritation or redness
  • Diagnosis, such as X-rays and lab tests
  • Bleeding and cuts which require stitches
  • Mild breathing difficulties
  • Moderate back issues
  • Strains, sprains
  • Falls and other minor accidents

Knowing the differences between when to go to an urgent care clinic or an emergency room can mean the difference between waiting several hours or thirty minutes for treatment. It is worth taking some time to develop an understanding of where to go and when. Also, have a list of numbers for treatment centers available. You will be sure to avoid a great deal of hassle when the unfortunate does happen.