When to visit OSSM Urgent Care CDA vs the ER

Everyone has an illness or injury at some point in their life that requires immediate medical attention. When that happens, many have a question: Go to Urgent Care or the ER?

Whether you should visit the ER or Urgent Care in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, depends on your answers to a few questions.

Can Urgent Care Handle Your Situation?

The question of whether Urgent Care can address your issue is the foundation for choosing one over the other. While there are complexities to that question, such as having to know or find out the capabilities of each, generally, the answer is easy to ascertain. 

If, for example, you need an x-ray for a possible broken bone, and your local Urgent Care facility advertises they do x-rays, then going to Urgent Care is the smarter option.

If you need something more sophisticated, like an MRI or CAT scan, the ER is probably the better choice.

Was 911 called?

Whether you have to engage in emergency services is also a good measure for choosing between Urgent Care and the ER. If you had to call 911 for medical attention, the ER is your best choice.

How Serious Is the Illness or Injury?

Potentially serious injuries or illnesses that require immediate attention are candidates for the ER. Injuries or illnesses considered serious include, but are not limited to:

  • Chest pains
  • Acute illness (such as having to be hospitalized for COVID)
  • Trauma or deep cuts requiring stitches
  • Seizures
  • Severe pain caused by illness, injury, or pain that has an unknown source
  • Shortness of breath
  • Head injuries
  • Compound fractures (the bone(s) are sticking out through the skin)

Urgent Care is better suited to address the following:

  • Sprains
  • Minor broken bones (fingers, toes, etc.)
  • Suspected broken bones requiring x-rays
  • Back or muscle pain
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Earache
  • Tooth infection
  • UTIs
  • Nausea and vomiting

That is not a complete list of all Urgent Care can treat, but it does provide a general summary of the type of illnesses and injuries appropriate for that type of care.

Is Urgent Care Open?

Urgent Care facilities have set hours. The ER is always open. No matter your health issue, the ER is the right choice if your local Urgent Care is closed unless you are sure you can wait until Urgent Care reopens. Urgent Care is a better choice if the Urgent Care facility is open and your illness or injury is not life-threatening.

Will You Need a Pharmacy Afterwards?

If you think you will need medications after your visit to either the ER or Urgent Care and the pharmacy is closed until the next day, the ER is a better bet because most hospitals can provide at least basic medications. If your local pharmacy is open and the illness or injury meets the criteria for Urgent Care, you should start there.

Final Thoughts

Knowing whether to use Urgent Care in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, or to head over to the ER comes down to these five questions. Using each as a guideline, you will make the right choice for treatment virtually every time.

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