When to go to Urgent Care

little girl opens wide for throat swab at doctor

When you’re sick or injured, you don’t always have to rush to the emergency room. In some cases, going to your nearest urgent care center is a better choice for different reasons. Find out more about when you should seek urgent care instead of going to the ER for immediate medical help.

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

An urgent care center provides diagnostic services and treatment for injuries or illnesses that are not considered life-threatening. These centers are not equipped to handle serious emergencies. Your wait time at an urgent care center is typically shorter than it would be at the ER, since patients are seen in the order that they came in. You can also walk into an urgent care center without needing to set up an appointment ahead of time as you would for your regular doctor.

Emergency rooms are meant for patients who have serious injuries or illnesses that could be life-threatening. ERs have doctors, surgeons and other healthcare professionals on hand to provide prompt care as needed, as well as all of the necessary medical equipment for treating severe injuries and illnesses. Keep in mind that emergency rooms see patients according to their condition, with the most serious illnesses or injuries treated first. This can lead to much longer wait time for you.

Reasons to Go to Urgent Care

How do you know whether you should go to urgent care or the ER? You should go to urgent care if you have signs and symptoms of a mild illness or injury, such as the following:

  • Fever that is low-grade or moderate
  • Persistent or severe cough, sneezing, sore throat and other symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a common cold or the flu
  • Pain when urinating, which could be a urinary tract infection
  • Minor wounds and cuts
  • Muscle strains and sprains

Keep in mind that urgent care centers typically offer service after regular office hours and on weekends.

Reasons to Go to the ER

You should seek emergency care at an ER for any of the following:

  • Wounds or deep lacerations with heavy bleeding
  • Serious heart palpitations, chest pain and other signs of a heart attack or other heart problems
  • Fractures, especially with bones sticking out
  • Severe allergic reactions, such as trouble breathing
  • Trouble speaking, paralysis or other signs of a stroke
  • High fever
  • Serious burns
  • Sudden headaches that are severe

Keep in mind that you should call 911 for care in a life-threatening emergency since there might not be time to get to the ER for prompt and life-saving treatment.

Other Services at Urgent Care

Urgent care centers also offer other kinds of services for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. You can have lab work done for diagnostic purposes or have imaging tests, such as X-rays, taken for a more accurate diagnosis of an illness or injury. Urgent care centers also administer flu shots each flu season, which can protect you from this illness.

If you need more information on urgent care, please contact Tri-County Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights.


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