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Emergency vs. Urgent Care

Regardless of whether you need a vaccination, have a sore throat, broke your arm, or just can’t seem to quit coughing, you deserve not just to receive care, but the right kind of care for all your needs. Choosing when to see a physician and where to go can oftentimes be difficult decisions, especially if you aren’t fully aware of the options available to you. Will a Band-Aid be enough to cover my scrape? Can my stomach issues wait until I’m able to book an appointment? Can an urgent care physician tell me if I have the flu?

For all of the health questions you might have, there’s an answer, and more often than not, the answer to your question comes in one of two forms: emergency care and urgent care. Both of these services are more than equipped to provide you with the help you need, but depending on your situation, there will be one option that’s best suited for you at any given time.

Emergency Care: The best choice for all life-threatening situations that require immediate medical attention; if someone could die or be permanently disabled, you should not think twice about going to the emergency room to receive treatment.

  • If you have an emergency, immediately call 911, or your country’s emergency phone number, and wait for an ambulance to arrive

  • Emergency departments are equipped with technology, advanced testing equipment, labs, surgical wings, and access to life-saving medications that no other healthcare providers will be able to provide

  • These facilities can provide care at any time, day or night, and offer help with the most complex and critical of needs

  • Often is quite expensive and has a long wait time unless your condition is genuinely emergent

  • Commonly Addressed Conditions: Seizures, choking, head injuries that lead to fainting, neck and spine injuries that lead to immobility, electric shock, lightning strikes, severe burns, severe chest pain or pressure, stopped breathing, sudden loss of senses, inhalation of smoke or poisonous fumes, heavy bleeding, broken bones with visible protrusions, severe pains or allergic reactions, overdoses, and deep wounds

Urgent Care: The best choice for treating conditions that require quick attention, but do not pose an immediate or severe health threat; can be considered a middle ground between emergency room treatment and seeing your usual family doctor.

  • While your primary care physician can often do many of the same things your urgent care provider can, sometimes, your condition may be too immediate to wait for an appointment or may occur after regular office hours

  • If you are unable to see your primary care physician, feel free to go to an urgent care clinic to receive the exact same treatment, as these providers also have the ability to write prescriptions, diagnose, and treat patients

  • Is often quite affordable, can be found in many convenient, nearby locations, and only require you to wait for a short period of time before being seen

  • Most vaccinations required for general care or travel can be administered at these facilities, and they are helpful in treating minor illnesses, injuries, and otherwise common acute conditions

  • Commonly Addressed Conditions: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, rashes, muscle strains and sprains, urinary tract infections, insect bites, scratches, sore throat, cough, congestion, headaches, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, flu, chicken pox, sinus infections, and ear infections, minor fractures, broken bones, wounds requiring stitches, minor burns, and non-life-threatening allergic reactions

While your urgent care provider is often the person you will want to go to for less-emergent needs, emergency care physicians are an extremely beneficial resource when accidents occur that require quick attention.

When you’re abroad, being able to access these urgent and emergency care physicians is more important than ever. If you are in a dire situation and need to go to the hospital, remember to call your country’s emergency phone number immediately so help can be on the way. Otherwise, if you find yourself in need of quick attention for something less severe, remember that Wander Health is here to help you find a local urgent care physician ready to meet your needs!


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