Emergency vs. Urgent Care

In the event of a medical crisis, sometimes it's hard to determine if you should go to the emergency room or an urgent care center. Emergency departments are crucial to all communities - they provide lifesaving care every minute of every day. Each year, the Antelope Valley Hospital emergency department sees more than 100,000 patients - which makes it one of the busiest emergency rooms in Southern California. You can help make emergency care as efficient and effective as possible by knowing how to distinguish emergency, urgent and routine health concerns.

Is it an Emergency?

The initial minutes after an injury or medical crisis are often the most critical. Trust your instincts when deciding if you or a loved one needs immediate medical attention. Symptoms that generally indicate an emergency include:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Head injury or broken bones
  • Poisoning or suspected overdose
  • Inability to breathe or shortness of breath
  • Seizure or loss of consciousness
  • Persistent chest or abdominal pain or pressure
  • Numbness or paralysis of an arm or leg
  • Sudden slurred speech, visual changes or weakness
  • Major burns
  • Intense pain
  • Severe reaction to an insect bite, medication or food

Call for Help
Calling 911 for an ambulance is one of the most important steps you can take in an emergency situation. Paramedics can begin treatment on the way to the hospital and alert special response teams to get equipment and rooms ready for when you arrive. This is especially important for someone suffering from a heart attack.

Remember - Don't attempt to move the victim or perform a medical procedure if you are unsure of how to do it. And don't try to drive to the emergency room if you or the victim requires immediate care.

The Urgent Care Option

An emergency department runs on an unpredictable schedule, and patients with the most severe symptoms are seen first. If you have a situation that requires prompt medical attention but is not life-threatening, you may receive faster care if you visit an urgent care clinic or schedule a same-day appointment with your primary care physician.
Urgent care symptoms may include:

  • Moderate fever
  • Colds, cough or flu
  • Bruises, abrasions and minor cuts
  • Minor burns
  • Eye, ear or skin infections
  • Sprains or strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Respiratory infections

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma, your primary care physician can advise you about symptoms that may require emergency, urgent or routine care.