You are feeling absolutely miserable with pain and you don’t know if you should go to the ER, and urgent care center, or try to wait it out until the next day. Some people may look up their symptoms or watch a health video online when faced with an urgent medical situation to help figure out what to do. Making the right decision is critical, especially if you don’t have health insurance. How do you know which decision is right for you? Here’s a guide to help you figure out when you should head to urgent care.

When To Go To Urgent Care

If you have a medical issue that isn’t putting your life at immediate risk, then you should probably consider going to an urgent care center when your doctor’s office is closed. These include things like suffering from minor foot pain, nausea, or fever. If you don’t have a regular primary physician, you can use urgent care centers to treat occasional ailments or to get lab tests or blood work done. You can also go to urgent care if you are unable to make an appointment with your doctor because their schedule is overbooked. Urgent care centers can also perform preventive health care treatment as well such as health video education, physicals, flu shots, vaccinations, and drug screenings.

If you are planning a trip to an urgent care center, the best times to go are in the middle of the afternoon or later in the evening. Urgent care can be busy at any other time because that’s when people are free from work or school obligations. It’s also best if you can go mid-week to reduce wait times. Follow-up with an appointment with your primary physician so that your urgent care visit can be recorded properly into your medical history and your condition can be double-checked to make sure it’s resolved.

When To Go To The ER

If you think that you may need an ambulance, then the right choice would be going to the emergency room. Medical situations such as difficulty breathing, heart attack, stroke, or uncontrolled bleeding are great examples. Babies and elderly people should always be taken to the emergency room immediately as they are more vulnerable to minor conditions being able to quickly turn deadly. If there is any doubt about whether you should go to the ER or not, you should play it safe and go anyway. Get a professional diagnosis rather than rely on the information you may find online or by watching a health video.

If you don’t have health insurance, emergency rooms are required to treat you no matter what, but they are incredibly expensive and you will be faced with the bill after your visit. However, your health is more important than any cost you may incur. You should call 911 and request an ambulance if you are ever unsure about whether or not you can make it to the hospital safely. They can provide medical services while you are being transported to the hospital.

Be Prepared Before You Go

Before going to urgent care or the ER, there are a few things you should know before you go. Make sure you bring your driver’s license and insurance card with you. You will be asked to provide your personal and family medical history, primary doctor’s contact information, and pharmacy information prior to being seen. You will need to tell the staff when your symptoms first started and what medicines you’ve taken or are allergic to. Be sure to ask plenty of questions about any lab tests or procedures and make sure you completely understand the discharge instructions before you leave.

Be prepared for a long wait at the emergency room if your condition is not immediately life-threatening. ER visits that don’t require hospital admission for treatment can take up to around six hours. The typical waiting time at 92% 0f urgent care centers is about 30 minutes, according to the UCAOA report. You can shorten your wait time by calling ahead to make an appointment or check their website to see if they provide an online check-in option.

Urgent Care Vs. ER Cost Differences

Healthcare can be quite expensive. Even the simplest visit to the emergency room can cost an individual or insurance company $600 or more. If you need any tests, you could easily see costs of $1,000 or more. The cost of going to an urgent care center depends on if you have insurance and what amount of co-pay may be required by your insurance company. A typical trip to urgent care is generally around $150 or less for just the visit alone.

Sliding fee scale options may be available depending on income. If you don’t have insurance and can meet certain income requirements, you may be able to sign up for Medicaid or Medicare. These programs will go back up to three months from the date of your application and pay any medical bills acquired if you qualify. There are also local community clinics and health departments that you can go to that provide free medical treatment services for the public. You can also request an itemized list of services from the billing department to make sure no mistakes were made as well as set up payment plans.

Pediatric Urgent Care

If your child is sick or injured, you may want to consider taking your child to a facility that specializes in pediatric care. Many walk-in clinics can take care of simple medical situations, but may not be equipped to handle a child with complex needs. If the child is under two years old, you should always take him or her to the emergency room for any and all medical conditions if your pediatrician can’t be reached. If an older child becomes unconscious, has a fever over 101.5 degrees, or has a seizure, they should be taken to the ER immediately. If the child can look you in the eye and coherently answer questions, an urgent care center is a sufficient choice.

It can be wise to contact your doctor’s office first before heading to the emergency room or urgent care, even after hours. Many doctors have emergency helpline numbers you can contact for advice on your child’s condition and a recommended course of action. This can save you quite a bit of time, money, and worry. It is also a good idea to pack a small bag filled with your child’s favorite books, toys, or stuffed animals to keep him or her occupied during times that you have to wait.

Urgent Care and Physical Therapy

A few urgent care centers in the United States offer physical therapy services for their patients, but it is extremely rare. You will need to contact any facilities near you to ask if they offer these types of programs. If they do provide physical therapy, they can help treat many common types of acute and chronic injuries such as joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries, and sprains. They can also refer you to other services you may need if you require long-term care.

You can also receive physical therapy services in the emergency room as well. Doctors often consult with physical therapists in order to make correct diagnoses and develop an effective plan of care. Patients can receive health video education on their condition, treatment exercises, pain relief recommendations, and help with assistive devices such as canes and walkers.

Chiropractic Urgent Care

You may be able to receive urgent medical treatment for pain at a chiropractic clinic near where you live. These centers can treat workplace and auto accident injuries. Some offer treatment therapies such as massage, acupuncture, and health video nutritional counseling. You may want to check with your insurance company first to see if they provide coverage for this kind of treatment. They may be able to provide you with a list of covered chiropractors close to where you live.

Chiropractic care can also be received in the ER for patients who experience neck and back pain. Normal ER doctors still perform all the tests and make diagnoses, but chiropractors can be on call to provide consultations on additional pain relief assistance. This can help the patient avoid addiction to opioid medications and help promote faster healing and recovery. You should go to the ER if you experience back pain along with fever, weakness, numbness, or loss of bladder control.

Dental Emergencies

Some people may wonder if they can receive emergency dental care through an urgent care facility or emergency room. Urgent care facilities and ERs do not have dentists available on call to perform dental procedures like pulling teeth. However, they can prescribe pain medications and antibiotics which may be able to hold you over until you can make a dental appointment. Dental emergencies such as trauma to the mouth, bleeding, swelling, or broken jaw should be treated at an emergency room.

There are a number of things you can do for yourself during a dental emergency while you wait for the dentist’s office to open up again. If you knock out a tooth, you can pick it up by the top and place it in a glass of milk. If you can see a dentist within 30 minutes of losing the tooth, the dentist may be able to place it back in its original location. For toothaches and broken teeth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use ice packs on your cheeks to reduce swelling. Avoid acidic foods if you have a mouth sore.

Personal Injury

If you have suffered personal injury from your job or a car accident, you should immediately see a doctor even if you don’t think it may be serious. You can go to an urgent care center for anything that is not life-threatening. It’s important to go as soon as possible because it will help you immensely when filing a personal injury claim. Once you have received medical care, search for personal injury lawyers to file the claim so you can receive compensation for your medical bills.

If you can’t pay for medical treatment with or without insurance and your doctor refuses to see you for any reason, your lawyer can file for a medical lien. This will assure any providers that the medical bills will be paid in full once a settlement is reached. However, it’s important to act as quickly as possible in obtaining this lien and getting medical treatment. It could negatively affect your ability to receive compensation if you wait too long.

Virtual Urgent Care Visits

One of the newest developments in medical care is the use of health video consultations. Patients can receive a medical diagnosis and treatment options from a physician using the camera and microphone on their computer or smartphone. An individual can also fill out medical history forms, receive lab images, and receive prescriptions through the portal of an online health video system. Doctors are even able to monitor a patient’s vital signs as well as blood sugar and oxygen saturation levels remotely.

These health video services are available 24/7 to those with non-life threatening emergencies. You can even search online for free apps you can download to reach virtual clinics regarding your medical emergency. This allows you to receive medical advice from the comfort of your own home and can save you both time and money in the process. You may still want to follow-up with a physical visit to your primary physician, as diagnoses received through a health video may not be completely accurate without a physical examination.

Whether you choose to visit the ER, go to an urgent care center, or have a health video consultation, getting medical attention as soon as possible when you are sick or injured is absolutely essential. Taking care of your health should be a top priority. Following the information in this guide will help you choose the best healthcare option for your medical situation. You can then have peace of mind knowing that your health is in the right hands.