When you need emergency care, you shouldn't have to wait for a doctor's appointment. But what if you have a condition that's urgent, but not quite an emergency? In this case, you should probably head to an urgent care clinic where you can walk in and see a physician right away.
Urgent care treats a wide variety of ailments and illnesses, some of which might surprise the average person. Most urgent care centers have extended hours and many are open seven days a week, making them an excellent option to turn to when you have an illness or injury that doesn't fall within the usual eight-hour work day.
What Do Urgent Care Centers Treat?
As mentioned above, urgent care centers treat a variety of illnesses or injuries. If you fall and sprain, fracture, or break something, urgent care can help treat this. Around 65% of those who are older than 60 years of age say that they have experienced dizziness or loss of balance, often daily. Your nearby urgent care can be a good place to turn if something like this goes happens.
You might visit urgent care for something as simple as a bad case of the flu, vomiting or diarrhea, or as common as strep throat, bronchitis, cold sores, pink eye, or an ear infection. They can also take care of urinary tract infections, bladder infections, STDs, or warts. Minor sprains or fractures and simpler broken bones can also be treated by the top doctors at your local urgent care.
Some centers will even offer vaccines, physicals, X-rays, and STD or HIV testing, depending on their resources.
Why Else Should I Use Urgent Care?
One reason that is perhaps more overlooked than it should be is that funneling more people to urgent care prevents emergency care from getting too clogged. Utilizing an urgent care can cut down on the wait time for emergency care patients to be seen. This benefits everyone, including hospital staff, and could even result in better care for the patients who are being treated there.
Convenience is another factor. Though urgent care facilities shouldn't substitute your primary care physician, they can take care of things at the moment and refer you to see a specialist if the need arises. They might be a good first opinion, however, and can prescribe antibiotics or other medication to get you feeling better right away.
Urgent care also usually has flexible hours, low wait times, and is less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. This makes it a great first line of defense for those who work or others who might not have the time to visit the doctor, even when they know they should.
There are also urgent car centers scattered across the United States, so no matter where you are, chances are one is close. This is great for family vacations or work trips, for example, and you need medical care, but aren't in your usual environment.
When Should I See Emergency Care?
It is also important to note that urgent care should not be substituted for emergency care. If there is a life-threatening condition at stake, you should absolutely head straight to the emergency room. Signs of a heart attack or stroke, loss of consciousness, injuries to the head, neck, or spine, and heavy bleeding should be treated extremely seriously.
Urgent care is designed for medical situations that are urgent, but not emergencies. It's also usually better suited to older children or adult care -- if your infant has a high fever, for example, you should probably take them to the emergency room to be safe. And if you're ever in doubt, it's likely good to err on the side of caution.
Get to know your local urgent care -- it can come in extremely handy, and knowing how to get there already can alleviate some panic or discomfort. Use it as another resource in your medical toolkit!