Urgent Care or Emergency Department: When to Go Where
by Rona Heublum-Colton, M.D.
Urgent Care Medical Director, Greater Hudson Valley Health System
When a medical situation arises, whether an injury or an illness, it’s not always easy to decide where you should go for treatment. Everyone wants to feel better fast, but there are important things to consider when it comes to deciding whether to visit urgent care or the emergency department (ED) for immediate treatment. Here are a few guidelines to help make that important decision a little simpler, and quicker, for you and your family to make.
First, consider if you can wait to see your primary care provider. If you are feeling a little under the weather from minor symptoms of an illness like the common cold or flu, or seasonal discomfort from things like allergies, a visit to your primary care provider may be the best idea. But, that may also require an appointment. If you cannot wait, or if your symptoms are unusually severe or impeding your daily activities, choose urgent care.
Any time an injury or illness is serious but not life-threatening, an urgent care office can help you. They are ideal for when basic cold or flu symptoms escalate. Ear infections, mild fevers and vomiting are also good reasons to visit urgent care. You can also choose urgent care for coughs, congestion and sinus issues, pink eye, rashes, painful urination, sore throat, allergic reactions and minor irritations from bug or animal bites. If vomiting becomes persistent or if a fever is abnormally elevated, choose the ED.
Neck and back pain can be assessed at urgent care, as well as sprains and strains. If you are concerned you may have broken a bone, choose urgent care when there is no bleeding, or exposed tissue or bone. The same goes for cuts and scrapes: Urgent care can stitch you in most cases, but go to the ED for wounds with excessive bleeding or that expose things deep below the skin.
Any injury sustained to the head should be taken to the ED. Expectant mothers experiencing vaginal bleeding and children younger than three months old in need of immediate care should both always choose the ED. Other reasons to seek emergency care include: abdominal pain or any extreme pain without a known cause; sudden testicular pain or swelling; severe head pain; persistent chest pain; injuries, not irritations, of the eye; seizures without a previous diagnosis of epilepsy; heart palpitations; weakness or paralysis. Suspected poisoning or drug overdose should both be referred to the ED.
Orange Regional Medical Group offers urgent care services daily, from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., on the campus of Orange Regional Medical Center at 707 East Main Street in Middletown (Outpatient Building). A team of Board-certified doctors and clinical professionals can treat you and your whole family for conditions that require urgent, but not emergency, care. And, you have peace of mind knowing that your urgent care providers are backed by the award-winning Orange Regional Medical Center and Orange Regional Medical Group’s extended network of primary and specialty care physicians. You don’t even need an appointment – just walk in.