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Urgent Care or ER

When you are sick or injured, the last thing you want to do is have to decide whether to go to an emergency room or an urgent care center. While the answer is not always simple, knowing the difference between urgent care and emergency care and where to seek treatment could save your life:

When to visit the ER

Emergency departments are designed to treat severe and life-threatening conditions. Hospital emergency rooms have specially trained doctors, paramedics, nurses and other support staff that can recognize, diagnose and make recommendations based on a myriad of medical issues. Below are some examples of when you'd want to visit an emergency room:

  • Altered mental status or confusion
  • Bleeding that won't stop
  • Broken bones
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Falls with injury or while taking blood thinning medication
  • Fevers with rash
  • Head and eye injuries
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Loss of balance or fainting
  • Loss of vision
  • Newborn baby with a fever
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Persistent shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Repeated vomiting for more than 48 hours
  • Seizures without a previous diagnosis of epilepsy
  • Serious burns
  • Severe heart palpitations
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden testicular pain and swelling
  • Vaginal bleeding while pregnant
  • Weakness or paralysis

When to visit an urgent care

Urgent care departments are same-day care that can handle a variety of conditions that need to be treated right away but are not life-threatening or severe. Urgent cares typically provide more complex care than a doctor's office, and offer convenient walk-in appointments and extended hours. Below are some examples of when you'd want to visit an urgent care:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Animal bite
  • Cough
  • Ear infections
  • Fever without rash
  • Flu- or cold-like symptoms
  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Painful urination
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Sprain or pulled muscle
  • Vomiting for less than 48 hours