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How to Choose Between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

When medical attention is needed immediately, the automatic response for many is to head to the closest ER; however, that may not always be the best solution. The two most common types of immediate medical care in the United States are Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care facilities. So what are the differences?

In a nutshell, urgent care provides medical treatment for less threatening, serious conditions that, although not ER worthy, cannot wait for several days or more so that you can see your regular doctor. They are often cheaper, quicker, and utilizing urgent care when feasible helps to prevent a backlog of patients at the ER. In general, the following types of situations can be handled by an urgent care facility:

  • Minor burns, sprains, or strains
  • Coughs, sore throats, colds, ear infections
  • Non-life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Flu symptoms
  • Minor animal bites
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Skin irritations
  • Broken bones

More serious situations, like those listed below, should be handled at an emergency room:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss or blurring of vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe bleeding
  • Head injuries
  • All major traumas

If you’re unsure as to whether or not your urgent care facility can handle your medical needs, you can always call ahead. If you go to urgent care and it is deemed that emergency treatment at a hospital is necessary, the facility will transfer you to the closest one.

While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, choosing urgent care in lieu of the ER can save you time and money, all while still giving you the treatment that you need.

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