Knowing when to go to urgent care and when to manage injuries at home can be challenging. Every year, urgent care centers and hospitals treat millions of patients. ERs alone saw 139.8 million patients in 2021, and 41.8% of those visits took less than 15 minutes. It’s often better to go to an urgent care and not tie up an ER with a non-essential emergency.

In 2022, urgent care centers treated close to 206 million patients. Urgent care is the right place to go for everything from cuts that need stitches to falls where there’s a suspected bone fracture. When you go to an urgent care, you can get STI, pregnancy, and blood tests completed. Doctors can perform physical exams and get you caught up on vaccinations. They also help with burns, bites, allergic reactions, strep throat, and ear infections.

How do you know when to treat something at home on your own or when to go to urgent care? Premium Urgent Care has some tips to help you know what you should do for common injuries or illnesses.


Seasonal allergies are something you can treat at home. Avoid going outside when pollen counts are high. If you do go outside, take a shower and change your clothes when you come inside. It helps keep the pollen out of your home. Run an air purifier to remove any residual pollen.

Allergies to foods and insect bites or stings can be dangerous. Have an Epi-Pen on hand for emergencies. If accidental exposure to a food happens, go to urgent care.


Bruises are common if you fall, get hit with something, drop something on a foot or toe, or walk into something. A cold compress can help with inflammation and pain. If you have bruises appearing and you haven’t done something to cause the bruise, it’s a good idea to go to the urgent care to have your iron levels checked. Anemia does make it easier to bruise.

Cold, Flu, or Covid

For most people, a cold, the flu, or Covid are best treated at home. Stay home and get enough sleep, drink plenty of fluids, and use any cold or flu remedies your doctor recommends. Consider a telehealth appointment to see if any medications can help you get through the flu or Covid with less severe symptoms.

If you have chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, COPD, kidney disease, high blood pressure, etc., see a doctor.  You’ll need guidance on getting through the virus with severe complications.


If you fall, you may get a few bruises. You could fracture a bone. If you are in extreme pain or notice a joint is no longer aligned as usual, go to urgent care for x-rays. If the pain is minimal, use ice on the affected areas to ease pain and swelling. 

Take it easy for a few days and make sure you take steps to avoid future falls like adding more lighting, installing non-slip flooring in a bathroom, or investing in a ladder that has handrails.

Head Injuries

Any head injury should lead to you going to urgent care. A concussion is not something to take lightly as it can become a dangerous situation in little time. Once a doctor has diagnosed if you have a concussion or not, go home with someone watching you and take it easy. Follow your doctor’s advice on when to get back to normal routines.

Insect or Animal Bites

Insect bites and stings may be treated at home. Use a cream designed to stop the itching. Ice can stop swelling. For a bee or hornet sting, a paste made from water and baking soda helps stop the pain of the sting.

If the bite or sting broke skin and you’re bleeding, wash the area and apply an antibacterial ointment or cream. Watch the area for signs of infection over the next few days and go to urgent care if it does appear to be infected.

An animal bite is not to be taken lightly.  The bacteria in a cat or dog’s mouth can cause serious infections. If you’re bitten by a dog or cat you don’t know, a wild animal or bat, rabies is a risk. Go to urgent care for treatment.

Nausea and Vomiting

Many things can cause nausea and vomiting. Food poisoning, illnesses like norovirus, side effects from medications, dehydration, and heat exhaustion can all cause these symptoms. If you can narrow down what’s making you feel ill, it helps you determine the best treatment option.

For an illness or food poisoning, make sure you’re staying hydrated and eat light foods like plain bread or saltines to absorb stomach acid. People who are older or have chronic health conditions should talk to a doctor as food poisoning can be risky when other health issues are going on. 

Heat exhaustion and dehydration should have you sitting down in AC or near a fan and drinking water until you start to feel better. If that’s not helping, go to urgent care. An IV of fluids may be needed to ease dehydration and prevent complications.

Scalds and Burns

Minor scalds and burns are easily treated at home with a clean bandage and a burn cream. If the skin is blistered, keep it covered to keep germs away from the damaged skin. Do not pop the blister. Aloe vera gel is useful if you don’t have a burn cream in your home.

Severe burns do need medical treatment. If a large area of your body is burned or the skin is charred, go straight to urgent care.

Scrapes and Cuts

Scrapes and cuts are pretty easy to treat at home in most situations. Make sure you wash the cut or scrape. Use a spray nozzle to remove any debris like sand or grass from a scrape. You might need tweezers or a soft cloth to remove some items. If you can’t get small stones out, go to urgent care for help. Once a scrape or cut is clean. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it in a bandage. 

For deeper cuts, apply pressure. A general rule of thumb is to go to a doctor if the cut is more than half an inch long, fatty tissue or bone is visible, or bleeding hasn’t stopped in 15 minutes. If stitches are needed, it’s best to go to the doctor ASAP. If you wait, an infection may impact the open wound.

Sprains and Strains

Many mild sprains and ligament or muscle strains are easily treated at home. You just need to slow down and take it easy for a few days. Listen to your body and don’t push harder than your muscles can take.

RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) is the best treatment for strains and sprains. Sit down and rest. Use a bag of frozen peas or an ice pack on the affected area to help ease inflammation and swelling. Compression bandages also help with swelling. Finally, keep that part of the body elevated if possible.

If you’ve sprained your ankle and it’s a little swollen but not badly bruised, sit down, get ice on it, and keep your foot up on pillows so that it’s elevated. If it’s badly bruised and the pain doesn’t subside a bit after a few hours, it’s a good idea to get x-rays to ensure you haven’t fractured a bone.

Realize When It’s Time to See a Doctor

Use home treatments but also pay attention to whether those treatments are working. If pain isn’t subsiding after a few hours or a day of RICE, go to urgent care. If you’ve had the flu for a week and it’s getting worse, see a doctor. It’s better to err on the side of caution and get seen by medical professionals than to keep trying to treat something on your own.

Premium Urgent Care offers online check-in to lessen any wait you have when you arrive. Be seen quickly and get answers and solutions that will have you back to your normal routines as fast as possible.