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Can't Decide Between the ER or Urgent Care? Follow the Signs.

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Can't Decide Between the ER or Urgent Care? Follow the Signs.

By Adriana Vulvic, FNP, Primary Care Provider at Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center

Deciding between the emergency room and urgent care can be a tough and stressful decision¾ especially if you’re not feeling well, are in pain or feel you need immediate medical attention.

The following guide is meant to help your decision-making process but remember…always follow your gut. If something about your health feels so off that you’re considering a visit to the emergency room, don’t let anything on the following list stop you from receiving the care you need and deserve.

Urgent Care MAY be the right choice if you…

  • have a medical issue that is not threatening your life or a body part
  • have mild to moderate cold- or flu-like symptoms that aren’t responding to treatment
  • have what seems like a minor bone fracture
  • would normally see a primary care doctor but don’t want to wait
  • have a fever without a rash
  • are vomiting or have persistent diarrhea
  • have abdominal pain
  • think you are dehydrated
  • have a sprain or strain
  • have a small cut that may require stitches

It’s Important to Note…

Urgent care is NOT a replacement for regular, preventive care that you would receive from your primary care provider. You should never put off routine screenings and check-ups with the thought that you can just go to urgent care if you need medical attention. Urgent care is meant to be a complement to your normal preventive care, not a substitute.

The Emergency Room MAY be the right decision if you…

  • are having a hard time breathing.
  • have chest pain (especially on the left side) and are at an increased risk for heart disease.
  • are experiencing sudden paralysis, trouble speaking, confusion, and other strange symptoms.
  • have a fever and severe abdominal pain along with issues like nausea, fatigue, stomach swelling, and lethargy.
  • are dealing with any illness or injury that is limb- or life-threatening.
  • have weakness/numbness on one side
  • have slurred speech
  • fainted or have a change in mental state
  • have serious burns
  • have a head or eye injury
  • have a concussion/confusion
  • have broken bones and dislocated joints
  • have a fever with a rash
  • are having seizures
  • have severe cuts that may require stitches
  • have facial lacerations
  • are experiencing severe cold or flu symptoms
  • are experiencing vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

It’s Important to Note…

If you’ve determined that emergency care is the proper course of action, calling 911for an ambulance means paramedics can begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital, which can be the difference between life and death for a stroke or heart attack victim.