For minor illnesses and injuries, urgent care centers can offer quicker service to patients. Appointments with your primary care physician can have you waiting for days or even weeks. That’s not helpful if you need immediate treatment. Emergency rooms will see you that day, but waits can be long, especially when you have a minor complaint. Emergency rooms treat the worst conditions first. Someone with an infection, a sprain, or a cough can wait for hours. Because they do not treat life-threatening conditions, urgent care centers can have you in and out in as little as an hour, and they take patients on a first come, first served basis. It’s important to know when to go to the emergency room, when to see your doctor, and when urgent care centers will meet your needs.
The Emergency Room
The emergency room is for life-threatening or serious conditions such as a heart attack or stroke where a delay in state-of-the-art treatment could cause permanent damage. Conditions that might require major intervention such as surgery should also be treated at the ER.
Go to the emergency room when you have these symptoms:
– Chest pain that doesn’t go away
– Serious difficulty breathing
– Major broken bones (arm or leg)
– Severe fever (100.4 or higher, especially in infants)
– Sudden weakness, paralysis, or fainting
– Serious burns
– Severe abdominal pain
– Excessive bleeding
Primary Care Physician
You should see your primary care physician for chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma or when you need a routine check-up. The primary care physician’s job is to assess your overall health.
Primary care physicians provide the following:
– Routine check-ups and physicals
– Ongoing assessment of overall health
– Detailed patient history
– Referral to specialists as needed
– Recommendations for future treatment
People often go to these centers when they need to see someone right away and can’t get in to see their doctor. The centers take care of a variety of conditions when patients don’t want to wait for treatment.
Urgent care centers treat the following:
– Sports and job injuries
– Sprains and minor fractures
– Lacerations needing stitches
– Insect and animal bites
– Infected cuts
– Colds and flu
– Sinus infections and bronchitis
– Urinary tract and yeast infections
– Back pain
The centers also offer a wide variety of preventative care that would likely be more expensive at the doctor’s office. They administer injections, immunizations, and boosters.
– MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
– DaTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis)
– Tetanus and Diphtheria boosters
– Chicken Pox
– Flu shots
– Pneumonia vaccine
– Shingles vaccine
– Hepatitis B
– Travel immunizations
The centers provide physical examinations and diagnostic services.
– OSHA physicals
– DOT physicals
– School physicals
– Drug and alcohol testing
– Blood tests
Emergency rooms and your primary care physician are central to meeting your health care needs, but there are circumstances when your nearest urgent care center is a better bet. When you need treatment right away for a non-critical condition, but it’s after hours or you can’t get an appointment with your physician that day, you can find professional, timely, and cost-effective treatment meeting the highest standards at one of these centers.