Should You Go to the ER or Your Regular Doctor?

In a moment of crisis, it can be difficult to think clearly enough to figure out which type of doctor or health care you need. Injuries and illness can be scary, and it’s easy to assume the worst; however, many problems can be solved with a simple visit to your family health care provider or a medical walk in clinic, and without a trip to emergency rooms or urgent care facilities. With average wait times in ERs climbing by a quarter between 2003 and 2009 from roughly 46 to 58 minutes, making the right decision can be essential to making sure you, and everyone else, gets the right treatment. Here’s how to know what level of health care you need for your situation.

“It’s Not So Bad:” When to Seek Out a Family Doctor

A visit to a family health clinic is generally the best plan for any sort of regular or preventative care. This can include vaccinations; minor cold, fever, or flu symptoms; regular maintenance of pre-existing health conditions like asthma or diabetes; or any minor health issues that might be concerning. In general, if it is an issue that can wait long enough to secure an appointment with a family care provider or neighborhood health clinic, it’s not serious enough to warrant a trip to urgent care.

“It Could Be Worse:” When to Seek Out Urgent Care Facilities

Urgent Care visits should be reserved for issues that aren’t serious enough for emergency care, but still need to be dealt with in a more timely fashion. This can include injuries like sprains, strains, or broken bones; more serious flu or fever symptoms; non-life-threatening allergic reactions or asthma attacks; or any time you need faster treatment when a primary care physician is unavailable. Urgent care facilities are just a small step up from your regular doctor and should be used as such.

“Well, It Got Worse:” When to Seek Out Emergency Care

Emergency Room visits are usually the best go-to for when things are serious. This includes any sort of severe pain or injury; chest problems or difficulty breathing; numbness or paralysis of one or several limbs; loss of consciousness or fainting; or any severe injury or illness that would warrant a call to 911. If it can’t wait and is potentially life-threatening, go to the ER as soon as possible.

Knowing which form of health care facility to look for can be incredibly important in an emergency. By going to receive the right health care from the right place, you can help make sure you, your loved ones, and everyone else at the facility gets the right care in time to help.

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