How to Know When to go to the ER Vs. Urgent Care

Being ill or injured is undesirable and quick treatment to alleviate pain and discomfort and to ensure physical wellbeing is an overwhelming priority. To overcome illness, injury and ailments we rely on medical facilities; often times the focus is on getting to the best hospital with the best doctors on time, which brings about the question; how does one decide between going to the ER or availing of urgent care when one is ill or injured. This article aims to explore this subject and bring to the forefront health problems that need ER care without delay and sicknesses and ailments that need urgent care wherein one can afford to wait a while before checking in with a doctor. Read further to know more.

Deciding between urgent care and making a trip to the ER is at times an obvious choice and at other times; not so much. However, making the right decision at the right time can save a life. Which is why knowing the difference between a life threatening emergency and an illness or ailment that is gradual in its progression is of paramount importance. Additionally knowing the difference between urgent care and the ER facilities at your nearest hospital is bound to help.

Difference Between ER and Urgent Care

The ER or the emergency room at your local hospital is a sub-section of the healthcare facilities the hospital provides with an emphasis on an immediate and proactive response to illnesses, injury and trauma.

The urgent care facilities at your nearest hospital are a different sub-section of the healthcare facilities the hospital provides; which involves a doctor’s visit followed by a diagnosis and prescribed treatment. Urgent care is quite different from a normal doctor’s visit as it meets your medical needs when your regular physician is unavailable to address your illness.

On the other hand; the Emergency Room or the ER at your nearest hospital is staffed by a quick response team that provides immediate medical help in the event of limb or life threatening circumstances. In most cases wherein ER action is required; a patient is transported to these facilities in a comatose state or in an immobile state. ER care is required in the event of road accidents, strokes, cardiac arrests and other threats to life and limbs. An ER visit is mostly followed up with emergency surgery; both major and at times minor and the administration of emergency life saving drugs and medications to stabilize a patient.

It is important to understand that most hospitals are equipped with an Emergency Department or an ER. On the other hand; certain medical facilities are limited to urgent care. Understanding this basic difference between the different healthcare facilities near you can help save a life that is in need of emergency treatment as opposed to urgent care.

How to Know When to Visit the ER

In the event of health issues that require emergency care; we often ask ourselves the question “can this wait?” If not; rushing to the ER is of paramount importance. However; in certain circumstances making this decision is easier said than done. Listed below are symptoms of life threatening ailments that require a quick response medical team at your nearest ER facilities:

  • Chest pain that is persistent and conspicuously radiates to the jaw or the arms or chest pain that can is conspicuous alongside vomiting, sweating and breathlessness.
  • Severe breathlessness.
  • Severe and unbearable abdominal pain or severe pain that is conspicuous in the lower-back region.
  • A head injury that does not result in bleeding, but causes loss of balance and fainting.
  • Sudden speech impediments.
  • Manic mental conditions in which patients show tendencies to harm others or themselves.
  • The sudden onslaught of weakness or even paralysis in one side of the face or the body.
  • Heart palpitations that is severe.
  • Sudden onslaught of severe headaches.
  • Sudden and severe pain and swelling of the testicles.
  • High fevers in infants below 4 months of age.
  • Broken bones.
  • Joint dislocation.
  • Wounds that require stitches.
  • Sudden vision loss; both full or partial.
  • Eye and head injuries.
  • Extreme cold and flu symptoms.
  • Extreme fevers or high fever accompanied by rashes.
  • Severe burns.
  • Sudden seizures in the absence of an epilepsy diagnosis in the past.

How to Know When to Visit Urgent Care

When you are unable to secure an appointment with your primary physician; urgent care can bridge the gap. Most people turn to urgent care for recurring fevers, allergic reactions, persistent cold and flu symptoms, persistent aches and pains, sudden rashes and other dermatological issues. Any illness or ailment that is bothersome and results in pain or discomfort can be treated as soon as possible in an urgent care facility; even if you do not have immediate access to your usual doctor.

In conclusion; one must reiterate that understanding the difference between ER and urgent care can truly save lives.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2018

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