What is Urgent Care and When Should You Use It?

Should the cut on your finger or the pain in your chest send you to the emergency room or an urgent care center? It’s difficult to be sure. So we’re making matters easy by providing this clear-cut description of where to go for the care you need.

Life-threatening emergencies, such as a heart attack or serious head injury, require a visit to the emergency department, also called the emergency room (ER). An illness or injury that does not appear to be life threatening but can’t wait until the next day should be treated at an urgent care center.

Urgent care centers provide easy access to quality healthcare for the times when your primary care physician’s offices are closed. At Mount Sinai, our medical expertise and commitment to personalized attention ensure that patients with urgent health needs receive the very best care days, nights, weekends, and most holidays.

What is Considered an Emergency?

In general, an emergency condition is one that can permanently impair or endanger your life. Dial 911 immediately for any medical problem that appears life-threatening. Some examples of conditions that need emergency medical care include:

  • Compound fracture, which involves a bone protruding through the skin
  • Convulsions, seizures, or loss of consciousness
  • Deep knife wounds or gunshot wounds
  • Fever in a newborn less than 3 months old
  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
  • Moderate to severe burns
  • Poisoning
  • Pregnancy-related problems
  • Serious head, neck, or back injury
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain that lasts longer than two minutes
  • Stroke symptoms, such as vision loss, sudden numbness, weakness, slurred speech, or confusion
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings

What is Considered an Urgent Medical Condition?

Urgent medical conditions are ones that are not considered emergencies but still require care within 24 hours. Some examples include:

  • Accidents and falls
  • Cuts that don’t involve much blood but might need stitches
  • Breathing difficulties, such as mild to moderate asthma
  • Diagnostic services, including X-rays and laboratory tests
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Fever or flu
  • Minor broken bones and fractures in fingers or toes
  • Moderate back problems
  • Severe sore throat or cough
  • Skin rashes and infections
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration

Dial 911 immediately for any Medical Problem that Appears to be Life-Threatening

Proper care will be provided at the closest emergency room (ER). Remember, ER visits are necessary for true emergencies, such as chest pain and severe injuries. Minor injuries and illnesses will be examined by our urgent care physicians. If greater care is needed, our staff will direct patients to the proper healthcare provider, or, if it is a true emergency, we will transfer patients directly to a hospital emergency room for further treatment.