The Differences between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

September 6, 2016
Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

A life-saving option for people in dire situations, emergency rooms provide timely medical assistance, when seconds count. Unfortunately, many ERs become overwhelmed with patients seeking aid for non-emergency situations. Urgent Care services offer ideal solutions for non-life-threatening conditions that still demand expert medical care. That said, it's important to understand urgent care and emergency room differences to better recognize which is most appropriate for your health problem.
What's the Difference?
Urgent care facilities provide expert medical attention for everything from the sniffles and the flu to fractures and lacerations. They can provide sutures, x-rays and lab work, while offering much shorter wait times compared to the average emergency room. They're also usually about two to three times less inexpensive, which can make a huge difference for families who cannot afford large insurance copays.
With that said, although urgent care clinics offer convenient, professional medical attention for countless health issues, they aren't appropriate for every situation. Usually, urgent care facilities address issues, such as broken bones, minor burns, coughs, colds, sprains, cuts and minor allergic reactions. On the other hand, emergency rooms are appropriate for strokes, severe bleeding, chest pain, breathing difficulties, head trauma, severe burns and other situations where every lost second could mean life, death or disability.
Where Should I Go?
Whenever an illness or injury occurs, people don't always know where to go. This can be problematic, especially in situations when an urgent care facility can provide lower out-of-pocket costs and the same level of quality care as an ER. On the other hand, some emergencies are so serious, a 911 call is more appropriate than a speedy trip to an emergency room. So, how can you know the best course of action for your individual situation? The following guide can help.
When to Call 911

  • When someone is choking
  • When a person stops breathing
  • Head injuries involving confusion, fainting and loss of consciousness
  • An injury to the spine or neck, especially involving an inability to move or loss of feeling
  • Lightning strike or electric shock
  • Severe burns
  • Severe chest pressure or pain
  • Seizures lasting 3 to 5 minutes

When to visit an Emergency Room

  • Fainting or passing out
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pain in jaw or arm indicative of a cardiac episode
  • Sudden, unusually severe headache
  • Speech problems or trouble seeing, walking or moving
  • Sudden confusion, dizziness, weakness or drooping on one side of the body
  • Ingestion or inhalation of poisonous substances
  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe bone breaks, especially if a bone is protruding from the skin
  • Deep wounds and severe burns
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Extreme pain
  • Severe allergic reactions involving hives, swelling or breathing difficulties
  • Very high fevers
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Overdoses
  • Seizures

When to visit an Urgent Care Center

  • Colds
  • Influenza
  • Earaches
  • Sore throats
  • Migraines
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Minor Rashes
  • Sprains
  • Back pain
  • Minor cuts and burns
  • Minor fractures
  • Minor eye injuries

Making the Right Call
When it comes to life-threatening injuries or illnesses, time is of the essence. With that said, due to substantial costs and long wait times, emergency rooms aren't always practical for every ailment. To ensure that you make the best decision for you and your family, review the previous guide, so you can make an appropriate plan of action based on your timely needs. Learn more about Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room services here!

Father and Daughter Having Fun
I had to take my son in for an ear infection following a sudden change in temperament at daycare. He was inconsolable the entire car ride but when we got there and by the time we left this care facility he was back to his normal happy go lucky little two year old boy. I highly recommend PhysicianOne Urgent Care.
Westwood, MA
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