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Unexpected Medical Issues: Should You Visit Urgent Care or the Emergency Room?



Unexpected medical issues: should you visit urgent care or the emergency room?

Medical issues can arise when least expected. Seeking medical care is essential, but which type? Knowing when it is appropriate to seek urgent care and when you need to head straight to the nearest emergency room is essential for protecting your health.

What Is the Difference?

There is a difference between urgent care and emergency care and the two cannot be interchanged. Emergency rooms are for just what the name implies. You should go to the emergency room when it is an emergency. Severe injuries, chest pain, extremely high fevers, and other medical emergencies should be reserved for the emergency room.

If you have a mild illness or injury, you should head to an Urgent Care center. Urgent care should be considered an after-hours medical center. If you cannot wait to see your doctor, urgent care is appropriate.

Signs of an Emergency

Knowing when to seek treatment from an emergency room is not always easy. There are some symptoms that can be better evaluated at an emergency room and they include the following.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Cuts that require stitches
  • Broken bones
  • Serious burns
  • High fevers accompanied by rashes
  • Head injuries
  • Seizures
  • Severe flu symptoms

If any of the above symptoms are occurring, it would be wise to seek emergency medical services. When symptoms are life-threatening, call 911 right away. Never put off seeking medical care, for any reason.

When to Seek Urgent Care

There are some symptoms that can be properly addressed by urgent care. One of the biggest benefits of urgent care is it is available on nights and weekends, so immediate medical care can be sought for a non-emergency illness or injury.

When it comes to illnesses during your doctor’s normal operating hours, they should be your first call. Your family doctor knows your medical history and can better treat your health needs.

When you cannot reach your doctor or cannot wait for treatment, going to an urgent care center is beneficial. Urgent care providers are poised to address the following.

  • Colds and flu
  • Minor injuries, such as sprains
  • Rashes and skin irritations
  • Earaches
  • Mild vomiting or diarrhea
  • Mild fevers
  • Sore throats
  • Mild allergic reactions

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers are limited in their scope of care, but they can provide the immediate care people need outside of medical emergencies. They can perform X-rays and some minor diagnostic testing. They can also provide some treatments and can write prescriptions.

Be Alert for Sudden Health Changes

Staying on top of your health means seeing the appropriate medical professionals when illness or injuries strike. Being aware of changes in your health will allow you to know if there are symptoms that need to be addressed.

You are the main advocate for your health. Make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your health by seeking immediate medical care when it is warranted.


While some medical emergencies are obvious, this is not always the case. If your life is in danger, call 911 right away or head to your nearest emergency room, no matter the time of day. If you have milder symptoms and cannot see your family doctor, an urgent care center is a practical choice.

The urgent care centers are there to help you in a non-emergency illness or injury that simply cannot wait until your doctor is available.

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