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Urgent Care vs. Emergency Department

When to Use Urgent Care vs. The Emergency Department

Urgent Care

Urgent care is for conditions that require attention but do not pose an immediate threat to your health or life.

Examples include:

  • Minor injuries
  • Minor cuts
  • Eye redness or irritation
  • Minor fractures
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Coughs and colds
  • Fever or flu
  • Sore throat
  • Skin rashes
  • Skin infections
  • Sprains and strains

An urgent care physician may determine that your condition warrants emergency evaluation and recommend that you be transferred to the hospital’s emergency room for further treatment. 

Emergency Department Care

Use the Emergency Department for sudden, unexpected medical conditions that, in the reasonable judgment of a sensible person, would endanger a person's life or seriously harm the person's health if not treated immediately by a licensed medical professional. The following warning signs, provided by the American College of Emergency Physicians, indicate a medical emergency:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Any sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Difficulty speaking

Children have unique medical problems and may display different symptoms than adults. Symptoms that are serious for a child may not be as serious for an adult. Children may also be unable to communicate their condition, which means an adult will have to interpret the behavior. Always get immediate medical attention if you think your child is having a medical emergency.

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