Sometimes, there’s no question when we need emergency medical help. Choking, severe chest pains, severe burns or bone breaks, seizures, sudden blindness or inability to move one side: these are all the kinds of emergencies that require immediate evaluation by an emergency room doctor.
Things aren’t always so straightforward though. Here are three situations that normally call for urgent care services rather than a visit to the emergency room:
There are a lot of these around. Estimates are that, by 2030, 6 out of every 10 American Baby Boomers will be managing one. One of the most common of these conditions is lower back pain.
69% of us find that such pain affects our daily life, and lots of us are exercising to try and relieve it. If exercise, or the lack of it, has resulted in a flare up, though, it’s usually best to find local urgent care services rather than go to the emergency room.
Urgent care services are normally well-equipped to deal with minor injuries or flare-ups of chronic conditions like back pain or migraines. Unless the flare-up is accompanied by classic emergency signs–such as unusually severe pain, passing out, dizziness–urgent care services are probably your best first visit. They can refer you on if things are genuinely serious.
Every day, 25,000 Americans sprain an ankle. While this is an annoying injury that can keep you from a lot of daily activities for a while, it’s usually not worthy of emergency room care.
Sometimes sprains are bad enough that you might wonder if the ankle is broken. Urgent care services are still probably your best bet. Four out of five of them are equipped to deal with fractures and minor breaks.
The same goes for other types of minor wounds. In fact, wound repair was the most common procedure at urgent care centers in 2012. If you’ve suffered any minor injury, a medical walk in clinic is usually the best place to go.
Cold and Flu
Unless you’ve stopped breathing, are coughing up blood, or have a high fever that hasn’t improved with medicine or is accompanied by a stiff neck, most cold and flu symptoms are best treated at urgent care centers.
Going to the emergency room with a simple cold or the common flu, especially if you’re a healthy young adult, may result in an enormous delay. If you’ve got the flu, you want to be back home and in bed as soon as possible.
Since 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week, it should be easy to find one that can see you whenever your cold or flu presents. You won’t be getting substandard care, either: 20,000 of American’s physicians work in these facilities. There are also many centers that provide after hours urgent care.
If you’re experiencing a genuine emergency, find an emergency room in a hospital near you. For minor injuries, accidents, and illnesses, consider finding local urgent care services instead.
For more information on making a decision about medical attention, see Medline Plus’ advice about when to use an emergency room.