Home care is often the first choice when caring for an injury or illness. Bandages, over-the-counter painkillers, and resting are some of the most effective ways to help you back to good health. Sometimes, though, home care can’t fix the problem.
How to know when to go to the emergency room can save you time and money when it’s not a necessary trip, and possibly save your life in other situations.
Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room
Medical problems can arise at any time of day or night. When your primary care doctor’s office is shut or you cannot get an appointment, you may be faced with the decision of whether to go to the emergency room or urgent care.
The emergency room (ER) is equipped to deal with complex, life-threatening complications or situations. Some examples of emergency conditions include heart attacks, broken bones, uncontrolled bleeding, serious burns, seizures without prior diagnosis of epilepsy, eye or head injuries.
Emergency room can provide all the care that urgent care does plus more; however, it’s not always the right choice. The emergency room is more expensive to visit. ERs also prioritize cases by severity and urgency, so you may be waiting for a while if your condition is not severe.
Reserve a trip to the ER for when you are faced with a situation that requires rapid or advanced treatment such as emergency surgery that is only available in a hospital setting.
An urgent care center is a same-day clinic that can handle problems which cannot be solved at home, but which are also not true emergencies.
Visit urgent care if your symptom onset is gradual or you cannot get an appointment with your primary care physician.
Common problems treated at urgent care include limb sprains or strains, urinary tract infections, and other conditions that are not life threatening but still require immediate care.
When to go to the ER for Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can signify many potential problems with a wide range of severity. People young and old can require a trip to the ER for abdominal pain. Severe pain, especially pain that is sudden, usually indicates that you should seek medical attention.
Seek medical attention if you experience:
- Fever over 101 degrees
- Pain that spreads to the groin or back
- Pain that does not go away within a few minutes or hours
- Blood in stools or urine, or stools which are black and tarry
- Blood in vomit
- Stomach is tender to the touch
When to go to the ER for Chest Pain
Chest pain is always significant, and should never be ignored. Not all chest pain is related to a heart problem. For example, heartburn can sometimes mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Chest pain that lasts a few seconds before going away may not be related to a heart problem, and is usually is not a cause for concern.
However, if you are uncertain whether your chest pain is serious or not, it’s best to be safe and seek medical attention.
Chest pain is often indicative of a heart attack, so be familiar with the following warning signs.
Heart attack warning signs:
- Sudden or unexplained shortness of breath – with or without chest pain
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, or nausea
- Heart palpitations
- Weak and/or fast pulse
- Chest pain that is not relieved by a change in position
- Chest pain that spreads to the arms, neck, jaw, or back
- Chest pain that produces a squeezing, heavy pressure sensation
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call an ambulance immediately.
When to go to the ER for Back Pain
For the most part, back pain is not a medical emergency and does not require a trip to the emergency room. Most back pain can be diagnosed and treated by your primary physician; often, you may be referred to a specialist.
It’s rare for back pain to necessitate a trip to the ER, but it can still happen.
Seek medical attention for back pain if you experience:
- Progressive leg weakness
- Loss of bowel/bladder control
- Acute stomach pain along with back pain that prevents you from standing up straight
- Fever with increasing back pain
When to go to the ER for a Headache or Migraine
Millions of people experience headaches and migraines on a daily basis. Most of the time, over-the-counter painkillers can treat symptoms until headaches go away on their own. Sometimes, however, headaches can indicate a medical condition that requires prompt treatment.
Seek medical attention for a headache or migraine if you experience:
- Stiff neck
- Any changes to vision
- Recent head injury or unconsciousness
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- You have a history of high blood pressure
- Chest pain that occurs when you are at rest, or when you have not been exerting yourself physically
Florida Medical Clinic
Accidents and illnesses don’t wait for the ‘right’ time to happen. At Florida Medical Clinic Urgent Care, we’re always prepared for the unexpected. Our Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel locations are open 7 days a week to treat non-emergency conditions and help get you back to good health.