Health Care

Should You Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

A woman on her laptop while using her phone

Around-the-Clock Emergency Room Care

When you or your family need urgent medical care, we’re here for you with full-service emergency rooms and urgent care facilities so you can feel your best again as quickly as possible.

It’s important to know the difference between urgent care and ER care, and which one you should go to if the need arises. We’re here to explain the differences, so you’ll be better equipped if you’re faced with an unexpected health care need.

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Care

When it comes to urgent care vs. ER care, the key difference is the severity of the illnesses and injuries that ERs and urgent care centers treat. Many people don’t know what to do when they feel quite sick, but not enough to warrant an emergency room visit. Then, they might call their primary care doctor to find there are no openings until next week.

In a case like the above, the best option is to visit an urgent care center like Centra Care, which has convenient locations in your neighborhood and a track record of quality care for more than 35 years. You can walk in without an appointment, or you can make a reservation online.

Whether you or your child has a sore throat, a tummy ache or a sports injury, you can trust us with expert, compassionate medical care. Our Centra Care locations even offer on-site medications based on your diagnosis to save you a trip to the pharmacy.

However, if your symptoms are severe, a trip to the emergency room is warranted so you can be tended to quickly and get the best possible care in our full-service ERs. If you are or could be experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 911 right away instead of going to an urgent care facility.

When to Visit an Urgent Care Center

Urgent care facilities are for non-emergency situations; it’s the same as a walk-in clinic for everyday illnesses or injuries, such as conditions that family doctors treat. This kind of care is meant to be convenient with short wait times available outside of regular office hours, like on evenings and weekends.

Urgent care providers can prescribe medication to treat what brings you in. They are equipped to suture wounds, perform basic tests and can even provide vaccinations. Some urgent care locations can perform X-rays, CT scans and more.

Illnesses and Injuries an Urgent Care Center Treats

Here are some of the conditions that might bring you to an urgent care center:

• Allergies

• Animal and insect bites

• Cold symptoms, such as headache, cough and congestion

• COVID-19 testing

• Ear infections

• Fever

• Flu-like symptoms

• Minor bone fractures

• Minor injuries

• Minor sprains/strains

• Pink eye

• Skin conditions

• Sports physicals

• Strep throat

• Urinary tract infections

• Vomiting

When to Visit an Emergency Room

Time is of the essence when you’re caught off-guard with a medical emergency. It’s normal to feel shaken and scared, but our emergency departments are here to help 24/7, including on weekends and holidays.

Emergency room visits are for emergency situations that can result in the loss of a limb, life or result in permanent damage. While ERs work to keep their wait times low, they are typically longer than urgent care wait times. Patients are seen based on how urgent a case is, so their waits can be in constant flux.

Signs You Should Go to the ER

Call 911 or go to the ER right away if you have the following symptoms:

• Abrasions or deep cuts

• Anaphylaxis/severe allergic reactions

• Bleeding uncontrollably

• Broken bones

• Chest pain

• Coughing up blood

• Loss of consciousness

• Major head injury

• Poisoning

• Pregnancy-related medical conditions

• Seizures

• Serious trauma

• Severe abdominal pain

• Severe burns

• Severe vomiting that hasn’t subsided for several hours

• Shortness of breath

• Sudden onset of severe pain

• Suspected heart attack

• Suspected stroke

What to Expect When You Visit Our Emergency Rooms

We know you’re scared, stressed and have lots of questions. That’s why we’ll treat you compassionately and do everything in the best interest of your well-being. We start with the basics — your name, birth date, medical history and the reason for your visit. We also take your vital signs. From there, we will determine how to best proceed.

Through a process called triage, careful prioritization can make all the difference for patients in critical condition. Sometimes, this means earlier treatment for a later-arriving patient. We strive to make ER wait times as short as possible, so that you can find ease from your stress and pain.

We might see a person suffering from a suspected heart attack or stroke as soon as they get here, so they can get the specialized care they need right away. Our emergency rooms are equipped with the latest medical technology to handle conditions like stroke and heart attack with expert care.

To help keep your stress levels low and expedite treatment, you may want to consider always keeping an information card in your handbag or wallet. Include the name and number of your primary care doctor, a list of your medications, drug allergies and any advance directives you may have.

Quick and Convenient Care, Right in Your Neighborhood

When every minute counts, you can count on us. Whether you need urgent care or ER attention, our urgent care centers and emergency departments will help you feel safe with all the care you need to get you on the path to recovery and feeling whole again as soon as possible. Find a location nearest you, so you know where to go when the unexpected happens.

Recent Blogs

A Physician Checks a Smiling Baby's Breathing with a Stethoscope
Identifying and Caring for Hernias in Children
A Therapist Speaks to His Patient and Put's his Hand on His Shoulder
What to Talk About in Therapy
Osteoporosis and Bone Density: Who Needs the Screening and When?
Senior man sitting on a couch at home placing hands on chest and abdomen.
What You Need to Know About Pulmonary Hypertension
Protecting Your Ears While Listening to Music
View More Articles