As urgent care centers become more and more common across the United States, many patients are eager to take advantage of the many benefits these medical walk in clinics offer. Urgent care centers are often open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be up to 50% less expensive than a trip to an emergency room, making them an ideal choice for many people who are too busy for emergency room care or wary of potential costs. However, urgent care clinics are only designed to treat non-life-threatening conditions, meaning that some injuries and illnesses should be treated at a hospital instead. But how can you tell if your ailment is serious enough to require emergency treatment?
When to Go to an Urgent Care Facility
While many medical situations can be alarming, in many cases, urgent care centers can help treat your condition quickly and affordably, reducing the need for more serious treatment later on. In fact, an estimated 27% of all emergency room visits in the U.S. could take place at an urgent care facility. However, in order to be sure, patients should visit the nearest urgent care clinic if:
- They have been injured in a relatively minor accident or fall.
- They have experienced a strain or sprain.
- They are having mild to moderate breathing difficulties, such as an asthma attack
- They have a fever or the flu.
- They are vomiting, are dehydrated or have diarrhea.
- They have minor broken bones or fractures. For example, a broken finger can be treated at an urgent care center.
- They have a skin rash or infection.
All of the listed examples require treatment within 24 hours, but obviously do not require hospitalization. In these cases, an urgent care physicians can evaluate the patient’s needs and prescribe any necessary medication, such as antibiotics and pain medication, within a single visit. Moreover, as more urgent care facilities add services such as physical therapy programs, they are increasingly able to treat additional conditions, such as anxiety.
When to Seek Emergency Room Care
Due to the fact that emergency rooms and hospitals can often become extremely crowded and overwhelmed, emergency room care should be reserved for potentially life-threatening conditions. Signs of these ailments can include:
- Severe chest pain, especially when coupled with difficulty breathing.
- An injury where the bone protrudes through the skin.
- Convulsions, seizures, or a loss of consciousness.
- Heavy bleeding.
- Moderate or severe burns.
- Potential poisoning.
- Problems related to pregnancy.
- Fever or other symptoms in a child 3 months old or younger.
All of the listed conditions could signal serious problems in the patients. For this reason, they should be treated at an emergency room, where they can be transported to an intensive care unit or specialized ward if necessary. However, in order to reserve these services for the critically injured, non-serious ailments should be treated at an urgent care facility instead. Get more info here.