You wake up feeling really sick. You have a high fever, you can’t stop shaking, and you’re pretty sure you saw some sketchy spots on your arm. Should you head to the Emergency Room (ER) or visit your local Fairhope urgent care (UC)?
If you aren’t sure, don’t worry–you aren’t alone. With so many options for medical care these days, it’s hard to know where to go for what. But an Urgent Care and an Emergency Room are very different places even though they both treat patients. For the best (and fastest) care, it’s best to know which to pick when your symptoms strike.
What is an Urgent Care?
An Urgent Care is a walk-in clinic that provides same-day medical care for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Urgent Cares can treat a wide variety of common conditions that need prompt attention but may not be severe enough for the ER. They are fully staffed with medical professionals and often have basic equipment like diagnostic imaging and laboratory tests. UCs are typically open for extended hours and don’t require an appointment, making them one of the most convenient options for medical care.
When Should I Visit an Urgent Care?
Urgent Cares offer a variety of services to handle your healthcare needs. They can diagnose and treat minor illnesses and injuries, provide physical exams, conduct laboratory testing and more. Some of the most common reasons to visit an Urgent Care include:
- Non-Serious Infections such as the flu, UTIs, and ear infections
- Minor Injuries such as a sprained ankle or a fractured arm
- Wound Care for minor burns or lacerations
- Non-Emergent allergic reactions
Urgent Cares are usually cheaper than an ER visit and offer shorter wait times. However, they are not equipped to handle life-threatening emergencies. That’s where an ER comes in.
What is an Emergency Room?
An Emergency Room is a hospital department that is designed to provide medical attention for serious or life-threatening conditions. They are open 24/7 and are equipped with everything necessary to treat medical emergencies, from operating rooms and specialists to complex tests and procedures. They can also admit patients to other departments for continued or specialized care.
When Should I Visit an Emergency Room?
Emergency Rooms can handle nearly any health condition, but they are best reserved for true medical emergencies. They have sophisticated tools and expert staff to treat conditions that pose an immediate threat to your life. Call 911 or visit the nearest ER if you experience:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
- Signs of Stroke
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe burns
- Suspected overdose or poisoning
ERs operate on a triage basis–that means they treat the sickest patients first–so wait times are typically longer than in other facilities. They can also cost more than other care options.
If you suspect a medical emergency, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and visit the ER. Acting quickly can mean the difference between life and death in some cases, so don’t hesitate to seek emergency care when needed.
The next time you’re feeling sick or injured, remember these tips on when to visit an urgent care vs the emergency room. If you still aren’t sure which one is right for your situation, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Urgent Care of Fairhope. One of our experienced providers can help you determine the best place for your current condition, including our newly constructed walk-in clinic!