When Should You Visit the ER Instead of Urgent Care?

Mar 15, 2022
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When Should You Visit the ER Instead of Urgent Care?

If you’ve been in a serious automobile accident or suffered a gunshot wound, it might seem obvious that the ER is the place to go. Often, you have no choice as responders at the scene rightfully call 911 right away. 

But say you’re nursing a cold and your fever spikes in the middle of the night. Your primary care physician isn’t available. Do you need to go to the ER, or can you wait to head to urgent care first thing in the morning?

That question is faced regularly by people who want to get the best care for themselves or their family but also want to avoid any unnecessary expense, long lines, and possible contamination of an ER visit. After all, about 400,000 people seek emergency care every day — do you really need to be one of them?

Here’s some guidance from the experts at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital about when to visit the ER and skip urgent care.

You have sudden, severe, or system-wide symptoms

If you have a sudden onset of acute pain, a fever that is high and won’t break, or you can’t breathe, head to the ER right away. If you lose consciousness or lose the ability to move a limb, the ER is also the place to go.

Your body goes into anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can prove fatal if not treated immediately. Signs of anaphylaxis include a weak and rapid pulse, constriction of the airways, nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure, and dizziness or fainting. 

You have signs of a stroke or heart attack

A stroke or heart attack requires immediate medical care to avoid complications, including death. 

Signs of a stroke include a face that’s drooping on one side, arm weakness on just one side, and slurred speech. 

A heart attack may present as pain or pressure in the chest, shoulder blades, jaw, and arms. You may awaken unexpectedly from sleep with discomfort. 

Other people start perspiring, experience nausea and vomiting, have heart palpitations, feel lightheaded, and suffer extreme fatigue. Shortness of breath is another possible heart attack symptom. 

Other reasons to go to the ER 

If you have serious burns or cuts that won’t stop bleeding, an ER visit is in order. Anyone exhibiting shortness of breath or having a seizure should also get emergency care.

Come to the ER if you or a loved one is suddenly confused or has another significant change in mental status. If you’ve fallen or experienced an accident in which you suspect multiple broken bones, especially in the ribs, skull, face or pelvis, come to the ER.

Women who are pregnant and experience signs of a miscarriage or another complication, like vaginal bleeding or severe abdominal or pelvic pain, are also safest going to the ER.

Cases appropriate for urgent care

Urgent care is where to go when you are concerned about an illness or injury, but can wait up to 24 hours for care.

Situations that can be handled by urgent care professionals include:

  • Fevers, colds, and the flu
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Strains or simple fractures
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Pain with urination
  • Minor cuts

At St. Michael’s Elite Hospital, we have the staff, services, and technology to help you with your emergency or urgent care issue. If you need emergency services, contact St. Michael's Elite Hospital in Sugar Land, Texas, right away or just walk in for care.