When you come down with a sudden illness or you sustain an injury, it can be tough to think clearly. And even in the best of circumstances, you may not be certain about where to go for treatment. While every situation is different, there are some definite signs to watch out for that can determine whether you should go to your urgent care clinic, see your primary care physician, or go to the emergency room. Here are some of those scenarios.

You should go to urgent care if…
…it’s not a medical emergency but you should get medical care quickly. For instance, if you think you might have the flu (or aren’t sure whether it’s the flu or another illness), you should pursue walk in treatment right away to attempt to reduce the severity of your illness early on. Alternatively, if you break a bone, sustain a minor burn, or cut yourself and need stitches, you can go to your urgent care clinic for swift treatment without the wait. In addition, you can pursue STD treatment or have other urgent tests performed at urgent care, allowing you more peace of mind. Essentially, any situation that would benefit from fast care but that is not actually life-threatening can likely be treated at your urgent care clinic.

Head to the emergency room when…
…it could be a life-threatening situation or could cause permanent damage. If you’re experiencing chest pains, difficulty breathing, or your injury involves a sensitive part of the body, you should probably see the experts in emergency care at your nearest hospital. Similarly, if your symptoms seemed to appear out of nowhere and/or seem particularly extreme, you should go to the ER. The CDC estimates that there are 37.2 million injury-related visits to the emergency room every year; while not all of these are necessary, serious injuries and illnesses should be approached with caution.

See your primary physician if…
…you can afford to wait, have a specific question, or need to see a specialist. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have a primary care doctor, even if you readily go to your local urgent care clinic for injury care, testing, or minor illnesses. That’s because you should have someone looking out for your long-term care needs. If you have a chronic health condition, for example, or require a refill for a prescription, it’s typically best to see your regular doctor. In addition, if you think you may need a referral for a specialist or have a question about an ongoing health problem, it’s best to make an appointment with your physician.

Every health situation is different, which is why you shouldn’t approach every concern in the same way. While some illnesses and injuries can easily be handled by the staff at your local walk-in clinic, other problems can be better addressed by your regular doctor. And, of course, emergency situations will call for a trip to the hospital. For more information about the conditions that can be treated by your urgent care facility, be sure to contact them with any questions you might have ahead of time.

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