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Urgent care vs Accident and Emergency – what is the difference?

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collDid you know that many illnesses and injuries that you go to A&E for can be treated in your local urgent care center? Example, you are cutting your groceries, and you slice your thumb. You can bear the pain, but you are bleeding profusely. Where do you go? Well, visit this link for more details.

Do you go directly to Accident and Emergency (A&E), or do you visit your local urgent care center? Many people face this type of dilemma every day. Let us try and explain the two centers.

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers are treatment locations for non-emergency situations. They treat the same minor injuries that hospitals and emergency rooms do, including infections, allergies, cuts, and sprains, but with the convenience of walk-in appointments. 

Urgent care centers are ideal for situations that require attention outside of the 9 to 5 working hours. Urgent care centers are places that focus on medical care for conditions that are not life-or-limb threatening emergencies.

IV drip
Image: Marcelo Leal on Unspash

You are likely to receive attention faster at an urgent care center as opposed to a major hospital or an emergency room.

Urgent care centers are convenient for treatment of;

  • Fever, cold or flu illnesses that don’t happen to be responding to medication.
  • Minor fractures and broken bones.
  • Body sprains and strains
  • Laboratory tests and X-ray examinations.
  • Small cuts.

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

Accident and Emergency is where you go when a condition is life-threatening. Emergency rooms have more in-depth analysis and diagnostic testing. They contain experienced specialists, like, cardiologists for heart attacks and orthopedic surgeons for complex bone fractures.

Accident and Emergency mostly runs 24/7 because they attend to unexpected situations that cannot wait. 

Accident and Emergency is perfect for life-threatening situations like:

  • Severe chest pains and irregular heartbeats.
  • Severe allergic reactions.
  • Critical burns
  • Stroke

Urgent care centers can treat most conditions at A&E, but when you have the feeling that the situation could be quite dangerous, it is wiser to head directly to the emergency room.

Differences Between Urgent Care Centers and A&E

  • Urgent care is for minor, while the ER is for major medical issues. The difference between the two comes down to what defines a medical emergency. Dangerous conditions that are not life-threatening but still require attention within 24 hours should not be taken to the ER, but urgent care centers.

 

  • The medical response time between an emergency room and an urgent care center is different. The ER deals with potential life and death situations and prioritizes the patients it attends to according to the severity of the condition. Urgent care centers deal with less severe cases and attend to their patients as they come in.

 

  • Due to the thoroughness of the tests and treatment, emergency rooms cost more than urgent care centers. The doctors in the emergency rooms are also ordinarily more experienced than the doctors and physicians in urgent care centers.

What signs will tell you when to go to the urgent care center or A&E?

    • When your medical condition does not threaten your life or a body part, do not go to the ER, go to the urgent care center.
    • When you have a flu-like condition that is not responding to treatment, go to the urgent care center.
    • If you get a minor fracture on the elbow, wrist, hand, ankle, or foot, you can also get treatment from the urgent care center.
    • Immediately go to the ER if you have a hard time breathing. Severe allergic reactions and cardiovascular conditions cause shortness of breath. 

 

  • Go to the ER when you have chest pains, especially on the left side of the chest. If you experience any form of paralysis, you should also visit A&E promptly.

 
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