Are you suffering from an illness or an injury? Are you unsure of where to go for treatment? For many people, the first choice is their primary care physician. However, your physician probably has standard hours during the day and little availability during that time to take short-notice appointments. Many people simply go to the emergency room if their doctor isn't available. This also presents problems, though. If the staff doesn't perceive your condition to be a true emergency, you could sit and wait for a long period of time. An urgent care office can provide a good third option, with shorter wait times and flexible hours. Here are when to visit an ER, urgent care, or general doctor.
Potentially life-threatening emergencies. These conditions should be treated in a hospital emergency room. In fact, you may want to call 911 and go by ambulance rather than by car. Many people, though, have a hard time knowing what is and is not a true emergency. The litmus test is if you feel like your condition, if gone untreated, could pose a threat to your life.
Examples of an emergency room condition include major cuts that won't stop bleeding, chest pain, severe stomach pain, and gunshot and knife wounds. If a child is involved, you may want to be even more cautious and also take them to the ER if they swallowed an object or possibly accessed poisonous material. Emergency rooms prioritize patients by the severity of their conditions. If you go with a true emergency, you will likely be treated quickly. If your condition is not an emergency, you may wait for a significant amount of time.
Non-emergency conditions that can't wait for your physician. This can include a wide range of conditions like cold and flu symptoms, vomiting and dehydration, mild to moderate breathing troubles, and rashes and infections. An urgent care is an excellent place to go if you need to see a doctor, but your physician doesn't have upcoming availability. It can also be a good choice if you don't have a primary care physician. Generally, if you want treatment quickly, but don't feel like your condition is potentially life-threatening, you should consider an urgent care.
Non-urgent, non-emergency conditions. These are often chronic or general conditions that can need attention, but can wait until your physician is available. Things like chronic pain, ongoing headaches, and general health concerns are good conditions for your physician to check. Your physician will be able to treat these conditions with your medical history in mind, which can be beneficial.
If you're in doubt, call your local urgent care and ask what you should do. They'll be able to advise you on whether they can treat your ailment or whether you need immediate care.
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