When you or a loved one is sick or injured, where do you turn? A visit to the emergency room (ER) could end up in an hours-long wait before you are even seen. Trying to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) isn’t always an option when you’re dealing with a sprain, fracture, or case of the flu.
Urgent care is the answer when you need care that can’t wait but isn’t severe enough for a trip to the ER.
Deciding when to use urgent care isn’t always easy, though. Understanding what services most urgent care centers offer and what you can expect during your visit can help.
When Should I Go to Urgent Care?
It’s easy to picture urgent care like the emergency room or your regular doctor’s office. Many people have misconceptions about what is. The truth is that urgent care is a unique setting offering many of the benefits of both the PCP and the ER.
Urgent care centers are designed to treat a wide range of common conditions. If you’re experiencing any of the following, a visit to urgent care is a good idea:
- Flu symptoms
- Seasonal allergies
- Sprain or strain
- Minor fractures
- Minor cuts
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Pain or burning with urination
- Ear or sinus pain
- Animal bites
- Minor allergic reactions
Treating illnesses and injuries isn’t all urgent care does, though. Most centers also offer services like drug testing, physicals, lab work, and more.
When Not to Visit Urgent Care
While urgent care is a great option for treating most common illnesses and injuries, it isn’t always the best choice. When you’re dealing with a serious or life-threatening medical emergency, you should go to the nearest ER immediately.
Symptoms that need an ER visit include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Head injuries
- Severe bleeding
- Sudden vision changes
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Serious burns
Remember, if the condition is life-threatening or your instincts tell you it’s an emergency, go to the ER right away.
What are the Benefits of Going to Urgent Care?
Perhaps the biggest benefit of an urgent care visit is the convenience. Most urgent care centers offer extended hours, including openings on the weekends, to accommodate your busy schedule. When other options are closed, urgent care is ready to help.
Here are a few more reasons why you should consider urgent care next time you or a loved one has an illness or injury:
- One-stop care – Urgent care centers are designed to diagnose and treat your condition efficiently. That’s why most centers offer both x-ray and lab services on-site.
- You’ll save time – Most urgent care patients are in and out in under an hour. Walk-ins are always welcomed, and you can also schedule same-day appointments at most urgent care centers.
- It’s affordable – Most insurance plans are accepted at urgent care. If yours isn’t, self-pay rates tend to be much more affordable than other options.
- Care for the whole family – Unlike a PCP, who may only accept adults or children, urgent care can treat patients of all ages. Whether you are dealing with an injury or your child is battling an illness, urgent care is ready to help.
Urgent Care Close to Home
The next time you or a loved one needs non-emergent medical care, urgent care might be the answer. Urgent care centers are often located conveniently close to your home or neighborhood, which means compassionate care is never too far away.
Need treatment for an injury or illness? Find an urgent care center near you now.