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Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

When you have a medical issue, your instinct might be to call 911 or head straight to the emergency room. However, in many cases, an urgent care center is the better choice. Learn the difference between urgent care and emergency rooms to ensure you know where to go the next time you or a family member requires medical attention.

For reliable urgent care in Silver Spring and Kensington, Maryland, stop by Fast Track Urgent Care or contact us at 800-417-1164 with any questions!

What Is an Urgent Care Center?

Most people are familiar with the emergency room and the wide range of treatments available there, but what is an urgent care center? In short, it’s a clinic that accepts walk-ins for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

Usually, at least one medical doctor is on staff, along with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. X-ray machines, ultrasound equipment, and other diagnostic solutions allow urgent care centers to diagnose and treat a wide variety of non-life-threatening medical conditions. Some of the conditions urgent care centers treat include:

Benefits of Visiting an Urgent Care Center

If you have a medical need that doesn’t threaten life or limb, we recommend visiting an urgent care center. This lightens the load on emergency room staff who have patients with dire health problems to care for. Other benefits of visiting an urgent care center include:

  • Lower costs: Even with health insurance, an emergency room visit can become very costly—very fast. The services provided at an urgent care clinic are covered by insurance and provide a lower-cost option.
  • Shorter wait times: Emergency room doctors have the difficult task of selecting patients in the worst condition to receive care first. If you go to the ER with a sore throat, the patient coughing up blood takes precedence, even if they just walked through the door and you’ve been waiting for hours.
  • No appointment necessary: Urgent care centers are a wonderful supplement to the primary care you receive from your family doctor. This is the place to go when you don’t want to set an appointment or you have an urgent medical need outside of regular office hours.

When Is a Trip to the Emergency Room Called For?

Since urgent care can treat non-life-threatening conditions without the long wait time or high expense of the emergency room, you might wonder when visiting the ER is worthwhile. In short, if you or a loved one’s life is at risk, the emergency room is the best place to receive advanced treatment, such as surgery, which urgent care centers don’t provide. Here are some of the symptoms that warrant a trip to the ER:

  • Intense back, chest, or abdominal pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Breathing or speaking difficulties
  • Abrupt, severe headaches
  • Sudden dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in mental state
  • Unconsciousness following a head injury
  • Traumatic eye injuries
  • Dislocated joints
  • Severe burns
  • Deep cuts (especially on the face)
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting

Urgent Care in Silver Spring & Kensington, MD

In summary, unless your illness or injury is life-threatening, you can expect to receive faster, more affordable treatment at an urgent care center. Fast Track Urgent Care has walk-in clinics in Silver Spring and Kensington for the treatment you need—no appointment necessary.

For more information on urgent care vs. emergency rooms, feel free to contact us online or give us a call at 800-417-1164.