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Should you go to Urgent care or ER? Here are the guidelines

Should you go to Urgent care or the ER? Here are the guidelines
Should you go to Urgent care or the ER? Here are the guidelines 02:00

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Deciding when you should go to the ER or urgent care can be a tricky decision. Anything life-threatening needs attention at a hospital.

For less severe issues, choosing between urgent care and the emergency department mostly depends on what's wrong.

A twisted ankle, a laceration or high fevers, medical emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Recently with COVID-19, the flu and RSV, hospital emergency departments have been packed with people waiting times stretching for hours.

Urgent care facilities can be a quicker and often cheaper way to get care, but should you head to the emergency department or an urgent care center, experts say both provide rapid treatment for medical issues.

But there are some differences to consider depending on your medical needs.

When it comes to non-emergencies, doctors recommend that parents first start with either their primary care physicians or urgent care and only visit the emergency room when all other options don't work.

Urgent care is designed to handle less severe illnesses and medical situations including minor cuts and burns, sprains, sinus and ear infections, and allergies.

The urgent care center's wait time is typically less than at the ER. Your bill can also be considerably lower.

But there are moments when a hospital emergency department is critical like major trauma, large wounds, stroke, loss of consciousness, heart attack or chest pain and uncontrollable bleeding. While the cost is higher it could mean life or death.

Finally, experts say people with underlying health conditions, including diabetes and cancer, should always seek emergency treatment at a hospital.

If you do decide on an urgent care center, doctors recommend going to one that's affiliated with a hospital so doctors can easily share and access records.

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