Where & When to Receive Care

When to go to urgent care

Urgent care is care you need sooner than a routine visit to a doctor. Urgent care is not emergency care. Urgent care is for illnesses or injuries that you would normally receive care for at your regular doctor’s office. Urgent care clinics are available when most other doctors’ offices are closed. Do not go to an emergency room for urgent care unless your doctor tells you to do so.

You may need urgent care for:

  • Ear infections with pain and/or fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cold or flu
  • Repeated vomiting and diarrhea (especially in babies and small children)
  • Nonsevere bleeding
  • Minor burns or cuts
  • Hives, rash or diaper rash
  • Bruises or sprains
  • Lice, scabies or ringworm
  • Drug reactions

When to go to the emergency room

Emergency care is care that is needed right away. You need to go to the emergency room if you think your life is in danger due to injury or sudden illness.

You need emergency care for:

  • Serious broken bones
  • Gun or knife wounds
  • Severe or unusual bleeding that will not stop
  • Severe burns
  • Heart attack or severe chest pain
  • Suspected stroke
  • Sudden inability to see, move or speak
  • Choking or trouble breathing
  • Possible poisoning
  • Unconsciousness
  • Convulsions or prolonged, repeated seizures
  • Going into labor
  • Drug overdose
  • Major injuries
  • Severe pain

When to call your doctor

If you are not sure if you should go to the emergency room or to urgent care, you can call your doctor and he or she can tell you what you should do. If your problem is not serious, you may have to wait a long time in an emergency room. Call your doctor first for most health problems. Your doctor has your health records and knows about your health. You will receive the best care if you can see the same doctor for ongoing problems, such as asthma or sickle cell disease.

If your life is in danger, go to the emergency room right away or call 911 for an ambulance to take you there. Call your doctor when you get to the emergency room and are physically able to do so.