Some people are unsure whether they should seek emergency care at a hospital emergency room or at an urgent care clinic. Although both “emergency” and “urgent” sound very similar, they are not precisely the same. You can have an emergency–in that you need medical care immediately–without requiring a hospital emergency room. The general rule to bear in mind is that emergency services are for life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Urgent care is for immediate medical needs that are not life-threatening. Whenever you move, you should always put “closest hospital to me” and “urgent care near me” into your search engine or maps app and make sure you know exactly where to go if you need medical attention. For the worst life-threatening emergencies, you’ll probably know it’s time to call 911 or get to the hospital. For other issues, you may not be completely certain. To help you plan, here are some of the injuries most commonly treated at urgent care centers.
Possible Broken Bones
If a bone has broken so severely that you can see it, you need to seek out emergency care at the hospital. If you’re not sure, or if your break doesn’t seem to have changed the shape of any limb, head to an urgent care facility to get an x-ray and find out what’s happened. If you have broken something, you can get it splinted and you’ll be referred to an orthopedist.
Every day, 25,000 Americans will sprain an ankle. This is just one of the many possible sports injuries that do need immediate medical attention, but which do not require emergency care. The urgent care center is a great place to take care of sprains, abrasions, strains, or heat exhaustion.
Burns vary in severity a great deal. A walk-in clinic can almost certainly provide you with the care you need for minor burns and even some more serious burns if they don’t cover much of the body. If you have severe, deep burns or if a large area of your body is burned, get emergency care immediately.
When your child is sick, the last place you want to take him or her is a crowded emergency room where they will be exposed to lots of new germs over a long waiting period. Go to a walk-in clinic and your wait time will almost certainly be shorter, fees will be lower, and your child can get the pediatric care they need for seasonal illness, minor injuries, asthma, and other common childhood ailments. About 60% of urgent care centers will keep you waiting 15 minutes or less.
If you or someone in your family has deep cuts, these should be treated at hospital emergency care. Shallow cuts that have not penetrated the muscle or bone can easily be stitched up at your local urgent care facility. They can also give you whatever you might need to prevent infection.
The Bottom Line emergency room when what you need is a clinic not only fills up the hospital and makes it harder for them to treat true life-threatening emergencies when they arrive, but it also makes things more difficult for you and your family. You’ll wait longer to see the doctor, you’ll pay more to do so, and the environment is likely to be far less pleasant, especially if you have children with you. Understand the difference between urgent care and emergency care so that when problems arise you know what to do.
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