ER-7 Emergency Medicine > Emergency Department vs Urgent Care

Emergency Department vs Urgent Care

When an unexpected illness or injury occurs, your first instinct may be to seek emergency care at the hospital. But this may not always be the best destination for your treatment. First consider your symptoms. If they are not life-threatening, calling your primary care provider or visiting an urgent care center may be best to address your needs while also saving you time and money.

Not sure when to visit the Emergency Department, an urgent care center or call your primary care physician? Below are some helpful tips.

Emergency Department

The emergency department (ED) is the place to go to treat life-threatening illnesses and injuries.  Rather than people being treated on a first-come, first serve basis, the sickest patients are always seen first. You should visit the ED if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Stopping or having trouble breathing
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Severe head, neck or spine injury
  • Sudden inability to speak, see, walk or move
  • Sudden weakness or droopiness on one side of the patient’s body
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Sudden loss of vision

Urgent Care

Urgent care centers are the optimal place to go to treat minor illnesses and injuries, when you are unable to see your primary care provider or do not have one. You should visit an urgent care center if you experience any of the following non-life-threatening conditions:

  • Cold, flu and other viral illnesses
  • Ear and sinus infections
  • Bronchitis, pneumonia and mild to moderate asthma exacerbation
  • Rashes and allergic reactions
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration
  • Bladder infections
  • Minor pediatric illnesses
  • Skin infections
  • Lacerations (cuts), abrasions (scrapes) and minor burns
  • Insect stings and bites
  • Simple fractures (broken bones) – X-ray facilities are available on site
  • Abscess care, including drainage

If you go to an urgent care center and the provider there believes you need additional care beyond what the center can provide, he or she will direct you to the emergency department.

To learn more about Carroll Hospital’s urgent care services, click here.