The emergency room and urgent care centers both offer prompt medical assistance for severe conditions. However, they serve two very different purposes. Here are some things people should consider when deciding whether to go to the emergency room or urgent care.

What’s the Difference Between Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms?
An urgent care clinic is meant to help people when injured or sick, but their doctor is not available. As the name implies, its primary benefit is just that you don’t have to wait for an appointment. They treat all the standard issues people could typically talk about with their normal doctor. Meanwhile, an emergency room is equipped to handle medical emergencies. They have the staff and tools to help with potentially life-threatening situations that require immediate and intensive care.

Examples of Situations Where People Should Go to Urgent Care
A general rule of thumb is that a patient should go to urgent care if they are dealing with something they would be comfortable going to their normal doctor. Examples include vague abdominal pain, mild dehydration, sprained joints, small cuts, fevers without rashes, or persistent vomiting. Urgent care can help by providing medication prescriptions, stitches, and other sorts of care.

Examples of Situations Where People Should Go to the Emergency Room
An emergency room is the best place to visit any time a person is dealing with serious issues. Deep cuts, severe burns, injuries to the head, or broken bones must be treated in the emergency room. The emergency room is also the place to visit if a person shows signs of heart attacks, strokes, or miscarriage. Therefore, symptoms like slurred speech, unconsciousness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or vaginal bleeding while pregnant are all reasons to go to the emergency room.

What Happens If a Person Goes to the Wrong Place?
When in doubt, it’s best to go to the emergency room. Though it might be an unnecessarily long wait or a larger expense, it’s better to be safe than sorry. In potentially serious cases, going to urgent care can waste time. Though urgent care can help and call an ambulance, they might not have the tools for major surgeries or other serious treatments.