In the panic and fear of a medical emergency or sudden illness, it can be impossible to know what to do for the best and who to turn to for the care the patient needs. Knowing in advance, while all is calm and well, the differences between urgent and emergency care over against your doctor’s office can help you keep a clear head when an emergency happens. Use this information to help choose the appropriate option when you’re in this type of situation.
- Urgent Care – Use urgent care facilities when the emergency is not life or limb threatening but needs attention straight away. Accidents can happen at the most inconvenient times of day or night, often when the doctor’s surgery is closed. Situations where urgent care centers could be the best option for treatment include relatively minor cuts that need stitches. Some cuts can be more dangerous than others, however, so you still need to assess the severity of the injury.
- Emergency Care – Emergency rooms provide quality care for patients who are experiencing more dangerous conditions, such as trauma, stroke or heart attack, severe bleeding, or dehydration and some types of infection. They are typically open 24 hours a day and contain the full spectrum of the latest diagnostic machinery, along with specialists to use them and analysts to quickly report the results of any tests performed. They also work in partnership and cooperation with the majority of local hospitals, and can arrange transfers should follow-up care be needed after the patient receives treatment in the emergency room.
Here are seven of the most common reasons why you should visit an emergency room instead of heading to an urgent care facility:
Never dismiss or ignore any kind of chest pain, discomfort or sensations of pressure. It is entirely possible that chest pain can be a false alarm caused by nothing more serious than indigestion, but that possibility can’t be ruled out without extensive testing. In the emergency room, you will be given an electrocardiogram (ECG) to rule out a heart attack, followed by an assessment from experienced physicians and nurses.
Trips and Falls
While children fall over all the time and mostly experience no long-term ill effects, other falls can result in sprains, fractures or head traumas that need emergency treatment. Go to the emergency room if you see any changes in the patient’s color or function, if the limbs turn cool or there appears to be any deformity. Delays in treating severe fractures can result in long-term disabilities. In traumas to the head there is the additional risk of concussion, which can also have serious consequences.
Difficulty breathing can have many causes, from easily treated allergies to life-threatening cardiac events. It’s vital to quickly diagnose what is causing the difficulty is vital. You should seek emergency care if you have difficulty breathing that you can’t explain.
Unexplained Severe Headaches
Sudden severe headaches can indicate the presence of potentially serious medical issues, especially if visual changes or other neurological effects accompany them. Headaches accompanied by pain or stiffness in the neck, or a high fever also warrant a trip to the emergency room.
Strokes need immediate, emergency medical attention and you can save a patient’s life if you recognize the symptoms, which include:
- Fainting or loss of balance
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Changes to vision including blurred double vision or any vision loss
- Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body or face
Any fevers can be dangerous especially if body temperature goes over 100.4°F and is accompanied by these symptoms: nausea or diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache and neck pain, rashes or difficulties with breathing.
Burns can be confusing to anyone without medical training, because often pain isn’t the most reliable indicator of how serious the burn is. Very severe burns destroy nerve endings, so size of burn is a more reliable indicator. If a burn is more than three inches wide, seek emergency treatment for it. Also if burns form blisters but are only painful following deep pressure, there is a chance the underlying fat is also affected and this can result in long term tissue damage. Any burns to the hands or face, or the genitals, need emergency care to help scar tissue interfering with normal function as the burn heals.
This list is, of course, not exhaustive, and there are many other conditions and complaints that are best treated in the emergency room. These are, however, some of the most common complaints that we see.
Having some idea of the kinds of situation where emergency room treatment is most suitable can help you make the right decisions in stressful and traumatic situations.