Emergency Department or Urgent Care?

When unexpected injury or illness strikes, your first instinct may be to go to the hospital’s emergency department.

But stop and consider your symptoms. If they are not life threatening, you may save yourself time and money by calling your primary care provider or visiting an urgent care center for your needs.

Emergency Department
The Emergency Department is where life-threatening illnesses and injuries are cared for, and the sickest patients are seen first.

Call 911 or go to the emergency department for emergencies including:

•Stopping breathing or trouble breathing
•Passing out or fainting
•Severe chest pain or pressure, especially if associated with pain in the arm or jaw
•Severe head injury
•Injury to neck or spine (especially unable to move or feel)
•Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk or move
•Suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body
•Dizziness or weakness that does not go away
•Heavy bleeding
•Broken bones (especially if the bone has broken through the skin)
•Deep wounds, serious burns or electric shock
•Severe allergic reaction
•Vomiting or loose stools that don’t stop
•Poisoning or drug/alcohol overdose

Urgent Care Center
Urgent care centers treat minor illnesses and injuries when you are unable to see your primary care provider or do not have one.

Go to an urgent care center to receive treatment for non-life-threatening conditions, such as:

• Cold, flu and other viral illnesses
• Ear and sinus infections
• Bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma exacerbations
• Rashes and allergic reactions
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration
• Bladder infections
• Minor pediatric illnesses
• Skin infections
• Lacerations (cuts) and abrasions (scrapes)
• Minor burns
• Sprains, strains and simple fractures and dislocations
• Neck and back injuries
• Wound repairs, abscess drainage and wound check
• Insect stings and bites
• Suture or staple removal
• Employer-paid services, such as pre-employment physicals, drug and alcohol screenings, workers compensation evaluations

If you go to an urgent care center and the provider there believes you need additional care beyond what the center can provide, he or she will direct you to the emergency department.

Be prepared
In order to be prepared when unexpected illness strikes, keep the phone numbers of your primary care provider, the emergency department and closest urgent care center saved in your phone for quick access.

Need a primary care physician? Visit our online directory or call Care Connect at 410-871-7000 for a physician referral.

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