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Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Just in time for summer, Health Net relays helpful information

June 20 marks the official start of summer – a season that, while generally associated with outdoor fun, can also often bring a host of injuries and illnesses. While it’s hoped that the summer will unfold without incident, if an accident or illness occurs, individuals are advised to educate themselves – ahead of time – regarding where to seek care.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the most prevalent summer aliments…

  • Falls and sports injuries (resulting in strains, sprains, fractures or abrasions);
  • Head injuries (such as from skateboarding, bicycling or rollerblading);
  • Insect bites (stinging insects, as well as ticks, are plentiful this time of year; bug bites can cause severe allergic reactions, and ticks can carry Lyme disease);
  • Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke (heat stroke is particularly concerning because it can be fatal);
  • Burns (from fireworks, grills, campfires and overexposure to the sun); and
  • Food poisoning (often occurs when perishable items are left outdoors for extended periods).

While it’s hoped that the summer will unfold without incident, if an accident or illness occurs, individuals are advised to educate themselves – ahead of time – regarding where to seek care.

There’s no question that hospital emergency rooms play a vital role in communities by providing lifesaving services, but many injuries and illnesses are more appropriate for an urgent care center. Unnecessary emergency room visits, can result in increased out of pocket costs and prolonged wait times.

When to Visit an Emergency Room

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers the following list of warning signs – for adults – that may warrant emergency-room treatment:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath;
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more;
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness or weakness;
  • Changes in vision;
  • Difficulty speaking;
  • Confusion or changes in mental status, unusual behavior or difficulty waking;
  • Any sudden or severe pain;
  • Uncontrolled bleeding;
  • Severe/persistent vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Coughing or vomiting blood;
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings;
  • Unusual abdominal pain; or
  • Severe headache or vomiting following a head injury, unconsciousness or uncontrolled bleeding.

When to Choose Urgent Care

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an urgent care center is recommended if the condition is not life threatening or risking disability, but you are concerned and you cannot see your doctor soon enough. The NIH notes that the types of problems or conditions an urgent care clinic can deal with may include:

  • Colds;
  • Sinus infections;
  • Allergies;
  • Coughs;
  • Flu;
  • Earaches;
  • Burning with urination;
  • Sore throats;
  • Migraines;
  • Low-grade fevers;
  • Rashes;
  • Sprains;
  • Back pain;
  • Body aches;
  • Mild nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Non-severe burns or cuts;
  • Minor broken bones; or
  • Eye irritation, swelling or pain.

The NIH advises that if you have a problem, do not wait too long to get medical care. If you are unsure where best to seek treatment, and you do not have one of the serious symptoms or conditions above, the NIH suggests that you contact your physician.

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