ER or Urgent Care? When to Choose Which and Why

ER or Urgent Care? When to Choose Which and Why

ER or Urgent Care?

( – Emergency room (ER) visits are up 50% over the last two decades, a fact that has led to increased wait times and frustration for people who need medical care. In many cases, the increase can be traced to the influx of patients with preventable and non-emergent illnesses.

As much as they may try to avoid it, people with non-emergency injuries and illnesses still turn to the ER for care for a variety of reasons. But when you take a closer look, you can see that based on symptoms alone, the decision to go to the ER or to Urgent Care becomes much easier. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to choose where to go for the quickest and most appropriate healthcare services.

ER vs Urgent Care: Symptom Considerations

Your symptoms should dictate whether you choose to go to Urgent Care or to the ER. Non-emergent or life-threatening conditions, such as a cold, flu, minor injury or other ailments that you’d normally see your primary care doctor for, are ideal for an Urgent Care visit. Acceptable symptoms may include fever, mild pain, fatigue, muscle aches, a twisted ankle, minor/controlled bleeding, earache, cough and sore throat, among others. Signs of pink eye, urinary tract infections, hives or skin rashes are also ideal Urgent Care situations.

ER visits are for serious medical matters. Forget Urgent Care and go directly to the ER if you experience any of the following: difficulties breathing, an allergic reaction involving tongue or mouth swelling, chest pain, paralysis, trouble speaking, severe abdominal pain, uncontrolled bleeding and moderate to severe trauma that is life or limb-threatening. Fevers over 103 Farhenheit, stomach pains, seizures, fainting and no urination within a 24-hour period are also ER scenarios.

By choosing Urgent Care for non-emergent symptoms, you will probably get faster, more personalized care. In addition, you will be leaving ER facilities available for those with truly life-threatening conditions so that the ER facilities can respond in the most timely and efficient manner possible. But when you truly need an ER, there is no better or more efficient place to take care of you because of the way most ERs triage and prioritize their patients.

Making the Decision

When making the decision to go to the ER, your symptoms should be your first consideration. If you have mild symptoms, Urgent Care is your best bet unless there are mitigating factors that make it impossible. If your symptoms are severe, head to the ER! Evaluate your situation on a case-by-case basis. If you can wait, a doctor’s appointment is usually your lowest cost option. If you cannot wait, weigh your symptoms with a nod to other considerations only if you must when choosing between the ER and Urgent Care.

~Here’s to Your Healthy Pursuits!

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