Your Family's Health Can't Wait But Is It Urgent or Emergent?

A child being treated for a sprained ankle at the ER, high fiving the ER doctor, while her mom looks on and smiles.
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When health issues suddenly arise, deciding where to go for care is the last thing you want to worry about. Should you speed to a hospital emergency room, seek help from a nearby urgent care clinic, or call your doctor?

The correct answer is: It depends. Below are some basic guidelines:

  • If you experience a life-threatening, time-sensitive health problem, go to the emergency room.
  • If the situation is urgent but not life-threatening, go to urgent care.
  • For routine problems, make an appointment with your doctor.

Below are more examples of when and where you should go.


Go to the ER if you experience:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, or weakness on one side of your body or face
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental function, such as unexplained drowsiness or disorientation
  • Any sudden or severe pain, or uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood, or bright red blood in bowel movements
  • Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, or sudden severe headache
  • Poisoning
  • Severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to medication, especially if breathing becomes difficult
  • Severe injuries such as broken bones and head injuries, or injuries occurring from an accident or fall, such as intense back or neck pain, fractures and dislocations of bones, deep cuts, or severe burns
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Signs of meningitis in adults: severe headaches, neck/joint pain and stiffness, vomiting, high temperature, and sensitivity to light
  • Seizures lasting longer than five minutes or new onset seizures


Go to Urgent Care if you experience:
  • Infections, sore throats, cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, earache, flu
  • Gastroenterological conditions food poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Asthma/Allergies, seasonal allergies, hives, diarrhea
  • Orthopedic issues: arthritis, tendonitis, gout, sprains, contusions
  • Skin conditions: rashes, poison ivy, eczema, shingles
  • Other: elevated blood pressure, lacerations (on-site stitches), and sports physicals

Fast and convenient urgent care is available through at over 30 Centra Care locations nationwide. An appointment is never needed, though reservations are available online. Board-certified AdventHealth physicians are on-site at each location 7 days a week, providing care for both children and adults. Click here to find your nearest Centra Care and here to find your nearest AdventHealth Express Care Walgreens location.

YOUR DOCTOR (aka Primary Care Physician)

Visit your doctor for illnesses such as:
  • Colds, flu, and sore throats
  • Minor injuries
  • Aches, and pains
  • Routine health exams/ check-ups
  • Follow up visits

As the saying goes, No one knows you like your family doctor. He or she knows your medical history, current medications, blood pressure, blood tests, previous illnesses and has them right there on file. Your doctor knows if you've had a bad reaction to a particular antibiotic, can talk about issues affecting your life and health, and can review your latest medical test results with you.

Your doctor is your gateway to the most appropriate type of care for most medical situations. He or she will either schedule an appointment or direct you to a specialist, hospital or the type of care that's most appropriate.

Learn More

Find out more about how AdventHealth supports your emergent and non-emergent medical needs with experts close to home. Visit us online to find a location or book an appointment near you.

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