Doctor’s Office, Urgent Care Clinic, or Emergency Room?

Where you go for your care matters

For most medical problems, you should go to your regular health care provider first. You get the best care because they know you and your medical history. 

Doctor’s Office

The best place to get care is a doctor’s office for common illnesses, management of chronic illnesses, minor injuries, and routine health exams. Your doctor can also help you manage your health over time. Your records are available and you get care from a pediatric specialist.

You should make an appointment with your doctor’s office for:

  • Common illnesses such as colds, flu, ear aches, sore throats, migraines, fever or rashes
  • Minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones, or minor eye injuries
  • Regular physicals, prescription refills, vaccinations, and screenings
  • A health problem where you need advice
  • Chronic illness that has worsened or needs checking up on

Usually open during regular business hours as well as evenings and weekends.

Urgent Care Clinics

When your doctor's office is not available, urgent care clinics provide attention for non-life threatening medical problems or problems that could become worse if you wait.

Urgent care clinics provide walk-in appointments and are often open seven days a week with extended hours. 

When your regular doctor or health care provider is not available, you should go to an urgent care clinic for:

  • Common illnesses such as colds, the flu, ear aches, sore throats, migraines, fever, rashes
  • Minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones, or minor eye injuries

Usually open extended hours into the evening and on weekends. Some urgent care clinics are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Hospital Emergency Rooms

You should use a hospital emergency room for very serious or life threatening problems. Hospital emergency rooms are not the place to go for common illnesses or minor injuries.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, don’t wait! Call 911 or get to your nearest hospital emergency room.

  • Severe abdominal pain 
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe burns
  • Deep cuts or bleeding that won’t stop
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or loss of coordination or balance 
  • Numbness in the face, arm, or leg 
  • Sudden, severe headache (not a migraine)
  • New Seizures
  • High fevers
  • Any other condition you believe is life threatening

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

No matter where you go for care, be sure to bring a list of the current medications you are taking.

When illness, accidents, and injuries happen, where should you go for care? 

If you’re unsure where to go for help, call your doctor or a health help line 24 hours a day.