When should urgent care services be used?
What is the difference between an urgent health care need and an emergency?
When a medical problem arises that requires immediate attention, it is often difficult to know if it is truly an emergency, or whether it is simply an urgent medical issue.
Generally, an emergency is a condition that may threaten an individual's life or cause impairment. On the other hand, urgent care can treat medical problems that while not emergencies, require care within 24 hours.
Some examples of conditions that can be treated at urgent care include:
- Accidents and falls
- Sprains and broken bones
- Back problems
- Breathing difficulties
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bleeding/cuts -- not bleeding a lot but requiring stitches
- High fever
- Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
- Severe sore throat or cough
- Mild to moderate asthma
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If a medical problem is life-threatening, call 911 immediately, and care will be provided at the nearest emergency room (ER). However, ER visits should be reserved for true emergencies, such as life-threatening accidents or chest pain. A visit to the ER without an actual emergency can be costly and inefficient, and detract medical care from individuals who truly need emergency care.
Common situations needing emergency room care:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Severe bleeding
- Chest pain or pressure
- Moderate to severe burns
- Convulsions or seizures
- Serious head, neck or back injury
- Loss of limb or severe broken bone
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