Is it an emergency?

Emergencies are life-threatening situations

It is important to seek emergency care if you need it. A serious injury may be the cause. Or you may have chest pain or another sudden, severe pain that doesn’t go away. You should go to the emergency room (ER) when you require immediate care. The ER may also be called the emergency department.

However, some people go to the ER when they don’t need to. At the ER, people are treated based on how severe their problem is. If you go to the ER with a minor problem, you could end up waiting for hours. In the waiting room you will be with other people that are sick. You also may take up a doctor’s time that could be spent saving lives. 

If you are sick or have an injury that does not need immediate care, there are better places to go. An urgent care center is a better choice for these concerns. Urgent care centers  often open early and are open late at night and on weekends. Of course, it’s always better to see your own family doctor. But if your doctor isn’t open, urgent care is a good option.

The following examples can help you make this choice.

You need to go to an emergency room when you have:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe bleeding or head trauma
  • Loss of consciousness or “black out”
  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision
  • Very high fever in an infant less than 3 months old
  • Broken bones

You need to go to an urgent care center when you have:

  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Sprains and strains
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Ear infections
  • Allergic reactions (non-life-threatening)
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Rash or other skin irritations
  • Mild asthma
  • Animal bites