The emergency room in a hospital is not the same as urgent care, yet people don’t understand there is a difference. Emergency room visits are meant for serious health issues. They must be life-threatening or so severe that urgent care isn’t enough.

Urgent care is for urgent healthcare needs that cannot wait until your doctor has an opening. It might be something that occurs in the middle of the night that can’t wait until your doctor’s office opens.

Every area has medical practices, urgent care practices, hospitals, and walk-in clinics. How are you supposed to know which is right for your needs? It comes down to how much pain or discomfort you’re in or whether or not blood flow is stopping when you apply pressure to a cut. Read our guide to when you should see your primary care doctor, when you should go to an urgent care facility, and when you need to go to the hospital.

Premium Urgent Care’s guide helps you choose the right place to get care for your medical needs.

When to Visit Your Doctor to Go to a Walk-In Clinic

Many of the health issues that appear are okay to wait until your doctor’s office opens. A sore throat, low-grade fever, and nausea aren’t life-threatening conditions. It’s okay to call your doctor for advice on medications that are safe to take until you have an appointment. A walk-in clinic is another option.

A walk-in clinic or doctor’s office visit is the best option for:

  • An earache 
  • Arthritis pain
  • Mild flu-like or chest cold symptoms
  • A persistent cough
  • A rash that appears without a fever
  • A red or pink eye that itches or has a discharge
  • A sore throat
  • Urination that causes burning or discomfort

It’s also the place to go for vaccinations, yearly wellness check-ups, and sports, DOT, or work physicals. 

Your doctor’s office may be able to address your medical concerns via a telemedicine visit. That’s another option that works well if your situation isn’t urgent or involves checking in to see if you’re feeling better.

When to Go to Urgent Care

Urgent care is best for situations that can’t wait until the doctor opens, but it’s not a life-threatening emergency. If the urgent care center determines emergency care is needed, they’ll refer you to the local ER. It’s better than going to the ER and taking up a bed unnecessarily. Reasons for urgent care include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abscesses that need draining and cleaning
  • Fever with no rash present
  • Dehydration and persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Flu-like symbols that have advanced from mild
  • Shortness of breath without chest pain or breathing difficulties
  • Small cuts that need stitching
  • A sprain or muscle strain

Depending on the urgent care practice, they may be able to handle some things that ERs do. At Premium Urgent Care, doctors are trained and have the equipment to suture lacerations, clean and dress surgical incisions, and care for upper respiratory infections. Animal bites, minor bone fractures, migraines, and sports injuries are other issues Premium Urgent Care’s doctors treat. 

When to Go to the Emergency Room

The hospital ER is the place to go for emergencies that could be serious or even life-threatening conditions. If you feel something is risky enough to call 911, it’s time to go to an ER. You would automatically go to the ER for these health issues or problems.

  • Bone fracture or dislocation
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing or throat swelling
  • Eye and head injuries and sudden loss of vision
  • Heavy bleeding
  • A high fever that doesn’t lower with acetaminophen or ibuprofen or the fever coincides with a headache or stiff neck
  • Long-term dizziness, seizures, or loss of consciousness/fainting
  • Severe burns
  • Severe chest pain or suspected heart attack (sudden shooting pains in the left arm, chest pain, dizziness, jaw pain, or weakness)
  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Smoke or chemical inhalation
  • Sudden confusion or memory issues or inability to speak or move
  • Suspected overdose or ingestion of a poisonous substance
  • Vaginal bleeding during a pregnancy
  • Wounds or cuts that bleed profusely

One other thing to keep in mind is the severity and speed at which a stroke can happen. If you are with someone whose speech becomes slurred, whose arm won’t stay raised when it’s lifted, and whose face droops, don’t waste time deciding who to see. Get that person to an ER by calling 911. If 911 is going to take too long, see if you can get the person into a car and get to the ER before they would. 

Remember the acronym FAST. It stands for Face (droops), Arm (arm drops), Speech (slurred), and T (take action). It’s a good acronym to memorize just in case you ever encounter these symptoms.

Tips for Any Medical Visit or Appointment with Premium Urgent Care

If you get it wrong and go to the wrong place, don’t stress too much. It happens. You might be told to go to urgent care instead of the ER or the ER instead of urgent care. It’s better to get it wrong than not to go at all and put your health at risk.

Doctors and nurses require complete honesty in order to offer you the best possible treatment options and care. Bring a list of all of the medications you take. This includes prescription medications and over-the-counter medications and supplements. Have the dosage you take, how often you take it, and strength.

If this is too much information to remember or write down, take photos of the bottles on your phone and let the doctor see them. You can also bring the bottles with you. Don’t rule anything out. If you take an herbal or nutritional supplement, you need to tell your doctor. It’s important as some herbs impact the effectiveness of prescription medications. The last thing you want to do is take certain decongestants at the same time you’re taking medications to lower your blood pressure.

Share every allergy you know of. If you have a mild skin reaction to latex bandages, share that with your doctor. If you’ve reacted in the past to penicillin, make sure you tell the doctor. Allergies to things like eggs, shellfish, and seafood are also important to share as some vaccinations could be problematic.

Most doctors have an after-hours answering service that can direct you to the right medical practice. Use their guidance to determine when to head to urgent care or an ER.

Save time and use Premium Urgent Care’s online check-in. You can complete the online check-in process at the Fresno office and have everything set up when you arrive. It saves time and frustration in situations where you’re already stressed or not feeling well.

Fresno’s Premium Urgent Care also has online forms you can fill out at home and have ready before you arrive. Print it out and bring it with you when you arrive.