Urgent vs. Emergent Care

When faced with a medical problem that requires immediate care, it is often hard to determine if it is truly an emergency, or if it is an urgent medical issue.


What is considered an emergency?

In general, an emergency condition is one that can permanently impair or endanger the life of an individual, including but not limited to:

  • Compound fracture (bone protruding through skin)
  • Convulsions, seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Deep knife wounds or gunshot wounds
  • 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
  • Signs of a heart attack or stroke
  • 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, including but not limited to:

  • Minor accidents and falls
  • Bleeding/cuts - (not bleeding a lot but may requiring stitches
  • Breathing difficulties (i.e. mild to moderate asthma)
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Fever or flu
  • Minor broken bones and fractures (i.e. fingers, toes)
  • Moderate back problems
  • Severe sore throat or cough
  • Skin rashes and infections
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration

Urgent care is not a substitute for emergency care, ER visits are necessary for true emergencies, such as chest pain and severe injuries. In the event of an emergency, or a situation in which the you could reasonably expect to develop into an emergency, call 911 or the nearest Emergency room, and follow the directions of emergency personnel.