Urgent Care or ER? Five Common Scenarios

You’re not feeling well, but do your symptoms warrant a trip to urgent care or the emergency room? Read on for five common situations:

1. Possible Broken Bone
It’s a Saturday afternoon and that game of backyard football got a bit too rambunctious. Now you’re cradling your wrist in pain, but you can’t tell whether it’s broken or just sprained.
While either a broken or sprained wrist doesn’t rise to the level of requiring a trip to the hospital ER, it’s probably not going to be comfortable to wait till your primary care physician is open on Monday. Head to urgent care to get it checked out.

2. Burns
You’re putting a sheet of cookies in the oven when your hand brushes against the side of the oven. A small, red welt appears, but after you apply cool water to it, the pain subsides. This is most likely a first-degree burn and will probably heal on its own.

But if you notice blistering or have severe pain or swelling, you have entered second-degree burn territory, which does require a trip to urgent care. Take a detour to the ER, or call 911, if a burn occurs on your face, hands, feet, groin or buttocks, is accompanied by difficulty breathing, or is the result of electricity or chemicals.

3. Severe Flu Symptoms
If you’d classify your flu symptoms as “pretty normal”—meaning cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and fatigue—then waiting it out or calling your primary care doctor is sufficient. But when symptoms take a more severe turn, as in sudden dizziness, difficulty breathing or persistent vomiting, or last more than a few days, head to urgent care. 

4. Skin Rash
You went for a hike with your family over the weekend. A few days later you notice that you have a rash on your legs that doesn't seem to go away. For many, the summer months bring with them various irritants. Some of the most common irritants include plants, insects, and chemicals found in sunscreen, bug spray, and pools. Most rashes will heal on there own with anti-itch creams and other medications.

However, if after several days the rash does not go away, or becomes worse, head to urgent care. If you have additional symptoms with the rash, like fever or shortness of breath, this could be a severe allergic reaction and may require going to the ER. 

5. Eye Irritation
You have an early morning and your eyes feel extra tired, it must be from staying up late the night before. When you look in the mirror you notice that your eye is pink. Did you get something in your eye? Could it be allergies? What about pink eye? 

Your eyes can be incredibly sensitive and if you notice visible irritation, like redness or swelling, and/or it feels itchy or painful, it is time to head to urgent care.  

How GMC Can Help

GMC is partnering with ChoiceOne Urgent Care to jointly operate a network of urgent care centers in our region. The initial two centers will open in April, and are located in Hamilton Mill and Sugar Hill.

Plus, GMC’s emergency departments in Duluth and Lawrenceville, offer the ER Express program to help minimize your wait. The emergency department at GMC-Lawrenceville also includes a dedicated Childrens Emergency Center staffed by specially-trained pediatric experts and a Level II Trauma Center.

Please note that the emergency departments at GMC-Lawrenceville continue to be open 24/7 during the current renovations.

For more information and directions visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/emergency.


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