Emergency vs. Urgent Care
You never plan for injuries or illnesses, but sprains, broken bones and viruses never seem to be convenient. At some point you may find yourself trying to decide if an urgent care or an emergency department is a better choice. Dr. Elizabeth Lucas, medical director of St. Luke's Urgent Care Centers, suggests that you consider what you might be comfortable having your primary care physician treat. Those common conditions, including simple lacerations that need stitching, insect bites, urinary tract infections, strains and sprains, and animal bites, are all treatable at the urgent care.
Dr. Lucas advises, "Life-threatening issues, such as shortness of breath, severe pain, drug overdoses, situations that require a CT scan or complex lacerations should be seen at an emergency department as soon as possible."
Here are some simple ways to decide when to go to an urgent care, and when to visit an emergency department.
Urgent Care Centers
St. Luke's Urgent Care Centers are fully-equipped to provide lab and X-ray services. "We can diagnose broken bones and splint them, and do a variety of lab tests," says Dr. Lucas. "One of the really great services is a quick strep test, so on a Monday night we can tell a mom whether the child has strep throat and should be out of school the next day. We can get the antibiotics started and save her some time. For a bladder infection, most people don't want to spend the night with those symptoms, but they don't need an ER, either."
- Minor illnesses
- Sore throats
- Ear aches
- Or other mild symptoms.
- Minor injuries
- Cuts and bleeding
- Insect bites
- Pain following a fall, etc.
- Suspected broken bones
"Often, many times parents take the 'wait and see' approach if they are not sure if a medical concern is an emergency, such as when a child develops a high fever or rash," says Dr. Lucas. "My advice is don't self-diagnose and hope that it gets better. Anytime you are concerned about your child's health, it is always best to bring them in and have them evaluated. You will never regret your decision."
Emergency Department Care
"Think about medical care options in your area and talk with your doctor," says Dr. Lucas. "Having a plan in place in the event of an emergency is important and will allow you to make a decision about treatment and act quickly in the event of an injury or illness."
- Difficultly Breathing: Call 911 immediately if you recognize that your child is having trouble breathing. Breathing difficulties could be linked to a number of problems such as asthma, pneumonia or a severe allergic reaction. Immediate medical treatment provided by the ambulance personnel on the way to the emergency department can be life-saving.
- Traumatic Injuries: Call 911 immediately if a child has experienced a severe traumatic injury, which may include excessive bleeding, head injury or severe pain.
- Behavioral Changes: Bring your child to emergency department immediately if you notice any behavioral changes. Behavioral changes can include difficultly speaking, excessive sleep, change in eating patterns and unconsciousness. Behavioral changes in children often indicate a serious illness or condition.
St. Luke's six Urgent Care Centers are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week with special holiday hours. Appointments are not necessary at the centers, so each center can see patients on a walk in basis and accept most types of insurance. Get more information about St. Luke's Urgent Care Centers.