When to Go to the Emergency Room

Emergency care is the right choice if you have a serious or life-threatening illness or injury that needs immediate attention. For other health issues, the choice of urgent care, a walk-in clinic or your own doctor may save you time and money.

Choose the right type of care

Whenever you have an illness or injury, it’s important to choose the right level of care for your needs. Understanding when to go to the ER, when to choose urgent or walk-in care and when to see your own doctor helps you make the right choice, receive efficient care and manage the cost of treatment.

Emergency care

Emergency rooms, open 24/7, are the best choice if you have a severe or life-threatening illness or injury. Go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing:

  • Broken bones, or dislocated joints
  • Deep cuts that may require stitches – especially on the face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever with rash
  • Major burns
  • Minor trauma, such as a common sprain or shallow cut
  • Painful urination
  • Persistent chest pain that radiates to your arm or jaw; may include sweating, vomiting or shortness of breath
  • Pregnancy complications if you are more than 20 weeks pregnant, including contractions/labor with bleeding, fluid leakage or decreased fetal movement
  • Severe head injury
  • Severe pain in abdomen
  • Sudden confusion or weakness, dizziness or numbness
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or trouble understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Vomiting blood

Click on the blue box at the top of this page to find an emergency room near you.

Walk-in care

Walk-in health care clinics are set up to offer you convenient treatment for common, non-life-threatening conditions. Care is offered on a first-come, first-service basis, and no appointments are necessary. Walk-in care is a good choice for minor infections and minor injuries like burns and sprains, such as:

  • Cuts (also called lacerations) – without stitches or with stitches
  • Ear pain
  • Influenza (or flu)
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Sinus infections
  • Sore throats
  • Sprains
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Vomiting

Find a walk-in clinic near you.

Same-day care from your doctor

If your condition doesn’t require immediate attention, call your primary care doctor and request a same-day appointment. Your doctor is also a good choice if your symptoms seem related to a condition for which you’ve been recently treated, for example, recurrent ear infections or urinary tract infections.

When you go to your primary care doctor, you benefit from seeing someone who knows you, your health history, your other medical conditions and which medications or treatments have worked for you in the past.

Find a primary care doctor location near you.

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