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Injuries and illness may appear all of a sudden. You stumble on the stairs while carrying your groceries, you wake up in the middle of with intense stomach pain, or you suddenly catch flu on the weekend. During times like this, people are caught by surprise and are uncertain where to seek for medical care, especially when the doctor’ office is closed, or the symptoms are severe. The answer is not always simple but knowing the difference between emergency care and urgent care can save a life during medical emergencies. So when to go and why see urgent care?

In general, urgent care is not emergency care although both offer almost the same kinds of services. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics suggests that 48% of a patient visiting emergency rooms are seeking treatment for minor injuries or illness simply because their doctor’s office is closed.

Urgent care clinics are same as doctor’s office that can handle different kinds of medical problems that require immediate care but are not considered an emergency such as severe trauma. Symptoms that can be treated in urgent care units include the following.

  • Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • High fever without rashes
  • Dehydration
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Strains and sprains
  • Flu
  • Mall cuts that require stitches

If the symptoms become sever of if you’re already aware of the diagnosis, it’s best that you contact your primary doctor to set an appointment. Going to an urgent care unit means that the  doctors and medical staff will need more time to provide the necessary, correct treatment whereas your primary doctor is aware of your medical history including the required treatment to cure your illness of whether there are further medical conditions that must be taken into consideration.

Note that although urgent care units provide immediate care, they are not substituted for your primary doctor or emergency rooms, especially life is on the line.