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Should I Go To Urgent Care Or The Emergency Room?

Urgent Care or Emergency Room?

Our health is important to us. Yet it’s difficult to know whether or not you should go to an urgent care or the emergency room when something is wrong. Every day we get up and notice how we feel. Usually, we feel fine, but it can be hard to know what to do when we’re not feeling so well. Do I stay home? Do I go to the doctor?

The question becomes even more important when we are injured or feel very ill; so how do we know where to go when we’re feeling at our worst?

Which Should You Choose?

Often, we think of the emergency room and the first things that come to mind are the wait and the bill. Since the bills are sometimes ten times as high as a regular visit to your doctor and the wait can be hours, when is it worth it? Dr. Danny Spencer, one of our Ridgeline doctors, answers that question:

“There are definitely times when you should go to the emergency department. Basically if you feel like you are having any kind of life threatening condition, if you’re having some chest pain which could be a heart attack, if you’re having stroke symptoms. If you’re having a hard time breathing you definitely should go to the emergency department…[if] you feel like it’s just something where you just need reassurance…then we can see you in the urgent care and we can reassure you and do some tests here.”

In an article from UChicago Medicine, Medical Director Thomas Spiegel, MD, is quoted as saying: “If you have a cough but don’t have a fever, you may just need urgent care, but if you’re having chest pain, shortness of breath, or if your whole body is sick with a fever, chills, and sweats, then you should go to the hospital emergency room.”

In reference to urgent care centers, Dr. Spiegel noted, “Keep in mind that staff at the urgent care will get you to the right level of care if they’re concerned.”

There’s also the question of where you live. If you live in a more rural area which is easier to get to? Maybe you don’t own a vehicle and need to hop on a bus service just to get you to the nearest medical center.

What Does an Urgent Care Do?

At the urgent care they are able to test and diagnose a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses. If they see from your symptoms that you need to go to the Emergency Department, they can make sure you get there. For almost everything else, they are qualified to help.

One of the things Dr. Spencer loves about his job is that he sees a little bit of everything. “[We see] everything from headaches, to chest pain to abdominal pain, to urine infections and colds and sinusitis. We see a lot of the flu.”

An urgent care facility can prescribe antibiotics and other medicines. Depending on the facility you visit they may also provide specialists such as OBGYNs and chiropractors. They are able to do everything that a normal medical office does, but you don’t need an appointment to get in. They are a convenient place to go if you need care immediately for a condition that is not life threatening, but you can’t get in to see your doctor soon enough.

The Long and Short of it

People who are worried about medical bills and finances will often attempt many home remedies before submitting to visiting a medical office. Sometimes, persistent pain or uncomfortability can be treated with a simple pain relief patch or other home remedy. However, there are definitely times when you should not risk your own life. Medical professionals, whether at urgent cares or emergency rooms, are there to help you and make sure that you’re going to be alright.

When you need to treat a life threatening injury or illness, the emergency room is the place for you. If you are in pain or uncomfortable and don’t want to have to wait for an appointment with your regular doctor, try visiting an urgent care! In the end, the urgent care is less expensive than the hospital and can handle a lot. They do minor illnesses, broken bones, sprains, strains, and anything else you’d go to a doctor for. They will also direct you to a specialist or the emergency room if they can’t handle your case themselves.