When a medical event happens, it can be difficult to know what can wait until your primary care physician's office opens, what should be seen at an urgent care center, and what requires an immediate trip to the emergency room. This guide will help explain where and when you should be seen and for what conditions.
What Constitutes An Emergency?
An emergency is something that can be potentially life-altering or life-threatening.
- Signs of a heart attack- chest pain, difficulty breathing, and pain in the left arm may be indicative of a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the emergency room, and even if you have someone to take you, your best bet is calling 911; it can mean the difference between life and death.
- Signs of a stroke- sudden muscle weakness, slurring words, confusion, incontinence, and blindness are best handled with a 911 call as well.
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings, hearing voices
- Fever in an infant under the age of three months
- Any illness, injury, or other symptoms in pregnant women, such as bleeding or severe pain
- Loss of consciousness from a seizure, drug, or alcohol overdose, or other unknown reason requires a 911 call.
- Severe abdominal pain or pain anywhere else in the body that is intense.
- Bone injuries in which the bone is protruding from the skin
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Gunshot and knife wounds
- Suspected poisoning
- Any burn or eye injury that is more than a minor irritant
In general, anyone who should be seen at the emergency center should not put themselves or others at risk by driving, and some situations are best handled by calling for the ambulance rather than having a friend or family member drive you. This will allow trained medical professionals to begin assessing your vital signs and provide life support measures if necessary as well as prepare the emergency room and staff for your specific needs.
What Situations Are Best Handled By An Urgent Care Facility?
Not every illness or injury is serious enough to require an emergency room visit. But sometimes, care is need before the night or weekend is over.
- Cuts that require stitches
- Sprains and minor broken bones, such as a finger
- Urinary tract infections
- Skin rashes that are getting worse, poison ivy
- A bite by a tick
- Asthma issues
- Flu or cold symptoms with a fever, especially in children, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system
- Something in the eye or a minor eye injury
These may require you to go to an urgent care center.
If your issue isn't on one of these lists, chances are you can wait until you are able to get an appointment with your regular doctor.