Emergency Room or Urgent Care: Which One?

Emergency Room or Urgent Care: Which One?

The dog days are officially here, and that means spending lots of time outside for cookouts, pool parties, lake fun and more. When taking advantage of all this Pure Michigan season offers, remember that hotter weather also increases the potential for injury and illness.

Some common reasons people seek urgent or emergency care during summer include:

  • Heat-related illnesses—anything from dehydration to life-threatening heat stroke.
  • Swimming injuries and deaths; drowning is the most common cause of death from injury in children ages 1 to 4. Keep yourself and your family safe by following sound swimming (and boating) rules.
  • Food poisoning and gastrointestinal issues. Sidestep that potato salad that’s been baking in the sun! Hot temps provide the optimal environment for bacteria growth.
  • Sunburns. Most don’t require a trip to the doctor or hospital, but sunburns can definitely make you miserable. Be sure to practice good sun protection habits.
  • Sports injuries, such as sprained wrists, twisted ankles and broken bones from playing frisbee, foot-ball, and other outdoor activities.
  • Burns and cuts associated with things like grilling and camp fires.
  • Skin irritations and insect bites. Plants like poison ivy, sumac and oak can be a nuisance. Watch for any bumps or swelling that don’t go away or increase in size, and learn how to stay protected from ticks and mosquitoes.

ER vs Urgent Care: What’s the Difference Anyway?

First and foremost, keep in mind that hospital emergency rooms are designed to focus only on true medical or life-threatening emergencies. Some examples of medical emergencies include:

  • Chest pain or other signs of heart attack
  • Heat stroke
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stroke
  • Severe bleeding
  • A head injury
  • Other major trauma

If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

Urgent Care centers, on the other hand, can handle all kinds of minor health problems. You don’t need to make an appointment at these types of facilities either. Urgent care centers treat things like:

  • Sprained ankles
  • Ear infections
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Allergic reactions
  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Coughs, colds, sore throats
  • Animal bites

In most situations, you will wait less and save money by going to an urgent care facility versus an emergency room. Many urgent care centers are open for extended hours, making them able to accommodate you quicker.

For illnesses like colds, flu and sore throats, as well as minor injuries, aches and pains, you should consider making an appointment with your primary health care provider or your child’s pediatrician. To help you stay on a lifelong wellness path, these providers also provide routine health exams, physicals, annual screenings and immunizations.

Learn more about Holland Hospital Urgent Care services in Holland and Zeeland.

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  • Brian Coté, DO

    Brian Coté, DO

    Board certified in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Brian Cote has practiced at Holland Hospital for 20 years in both emergency medicine and urgent care. He's currently the Medical Director of Urgent Care. After completing his residency at Spectrum Health - Butterworth Campus, Dr. Cote decided to make west Michigan home. He continues to cultivate his passion of urgent care - enriching the lives of patient's in his care.

    All blogs by Brian Coté, DO

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