Urgent care and emergency care are often confused. Some patients tend to think that they are one and the same and will go to an urgent care clinic for something that is much more serious than what urgent care clinics can manage. The reverse is also true. Someone with a possible case of strep throat and a fever will go to the emergency room instead of the urgent care clinic. Here is how to determine which place you should go the next time you need immediate medical help.
Are You Bleeding Profusely?
If you have a cut to your head, and it looks deep, go to the E.R. If you have a very small cut to your head, chances are you will be okay to see a doctor at an urgent care clinic. Just bring enough bandages or a towel with you to apply to the smaller wound. Usually, the amount of blood you are losing is a sign of which place you should go for treatment. Large cuts with obvious profuse bleeding and visible bone or muscle tissue is definitely a case for an E.R. visit. Lesser bleeding and slight wounds can be managed in urgent care.
Is Anything Obviously Broken?
When you break a bone or dislocate a body part, it is quite obvious. The deformation you see is a dead giveaway, and the pain you feel will be so severe you will want to pass out or cry constantly. When this happens you need an E.R. visit. On the other hand, if you just have swelling and bruising, a doctor at an urgent care clinic can help. You may still have a mild break or a dislocation that reset itself, but the urgent care doctor can help with that.
Do You Have a Really Deep Wound?
Urgent care clinics are not typically set up to do on-the-spot surgical work. A really deep wound close to or through a vital area of the body requires emergency attention, not urgent care. A doctor has to make sure no vital organs or blood vessels were cut and/or damaged, and that kind of care cannot be managed in urgent care because there is no operating room there. Likewise, a gun shot wound or other very serious injury is not for urgent care doctors; that is an emergency room situation. Essentially, if you have a legitimate life-or-death situation, go to the E.R., not to urgent care. If your situation can wait days, go to urgent care.