Emergency and Urgent Care
The ER vs. urgent care — what's the difference?
When faced with a health emergency, do you know where to get care? As a rule of thumb, emergency rooms (ERs) are for life- or limb-threatening injuries and illnesses, but also treat minor injuries. Urgent care centers are focused on more minor injuries and illnesses, though services offered will vary.
When to go to the emergency room.
Visit your closest ER or call 911 if you experience:
- Changes in mental status, such as confusion
- Chest pain or pressure
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Severe allergic reaction
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Sudden dizziness, weakness or changes in vision
- Sudden or severe pain
When to go to urgent care.
Urgent care could be an option for:
- Minor burns
- Colds, cough or flu
- Eye, ear or skin infections
- Minor cuts, bruises and abrasions
- Respiratory infections
- Strains and sprains
- Urinary tract infections
Navigating costs, recommendations and hours.
Aside from symptoms, there are other factors you may consider in deciding between the ER or urgent care. Urgent cares are often less expensive, so always check your insurance to see what you're responsible for. Note that all ER patients will be seen regardless of ability to pay.
Before visiting the ER or urgent care, always call your doctor, or get a nurse hotline recommendation. This will make the decision easier.
And be sure to keep facility hours in mind. ERs are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — yet many urgent cares close in the late evening.