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Family Doc vs. Urgent Care vs. ER: How to Know Where to Go

With the increase in urgent care facilities, it can be easier than ever forambulance patients to access healthcare conveniently. With a number of facility choices, however, it can be challenging to know whether to visit the family physician, urgent care clinic or the emergency room at the hospital when illness or injury occurs. Here’s how to decide.

When to Call the Family Doctor

If an individual develops illness and injury that requires immediate care when his or her doctor is available, this should be the first line of treatment. Examples of minor illnesses, conditions, and injuries that can be treated by a primary care physician include:

-Treatment of minor allergic reactions and allergy attacks

-Colds, cough, ear infection, or flu

-Dizziness or dehydration

-Minor burns, cuts, lacerations, or bites

-Migraine headache

-Rash, skin condition, or pink eye

-Urinary tract infection

-Nausea or diarrhea

The family doctor should also be visited for regular checkups, wellness visits, and vaccinations.

When to Go to Urgent Care

Urgent care is the ideal resource to rely on for any of the conditions listed above when one is not able to see their regular doctor. Unlike most primary care offices, urgent care facilities often have night, weekend, and holiday hours. In other cases, a doctor may recommend an urgent care center if he or she has no available appointments for that day.

When to Go to the ER

The emergency room is best reserved for real emergencies. Medical conditions that require immediate attention should be seen at the ER, including:

-Persistent chest pain

-Broken bone

-High fever

-Accidental ingestion of foreign substance

-Serious head injury

-Trouble breathing

-Suicidal thoughts or severely altered mental state

-Cuts that require stitches

-Sudden, severe headache

-Eye injury


-Fever in an infant

Those who aren’t sure where to go for care should start with the family doctor, who can make the appropriate recommendation for his or her patient’s health and safety.

Special thanks to chrisopdesoto for the image.