Our Guide to Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room – When to Go to Urgent Care

It’s a typical day in the kitchen and you’re preparing a meal for your family. As you dice some onions, you accidentally nick your finger. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit more than a nick—it stings, it’s bleeding, and it looks deep.

If you find yourself in such a scenario, do you head to urgent care or an emergency room? In this case, your best choice is urgent care. Most chopping mishaps are merely minor, despite the blood and what seems to be a deep cut. Rationally speaking, such a cut will only require a few stitches, if any.

Urgent care centers are invaluable to the community. That said, many are unequipped for emergency situations. These centers are for circumstances that are not a matter of life and death, but more urgent than making a doctor’s appointment at the hospital the next day.

In urgent care, patients are often able to see doctors more quickly. If you have a medical concern that isn’t a serious threat but does need immediate attention, then urgent care is the place to go.

Another major benefit of urgent care centers is that they are often less expensive than emergency rooms. Their facilities aren’t equipped with as much equipment as an emergency department and not as many specialists will be available. Thus, the cost of healthcare is lower.

Here are some signs that your medical situation can be treated in an urgent care facility:

It’s a Non-Life-Threatening Issue

In the cooking scenario above, you may have nicked your finger badly but the blood is tolerable and there’s no visible bone popping out. This is a laceration that can be taken care of in a jiffy by those at an urgent care center. Chances are that the wound will only need some cleaning and perhaps a stitch or two. After that, you’re good to go home! Non-life-threatening issues can be addressed by urgent care staff and do not require the facilities of an emergency room.

Here are some other non-life-threatening issues that often don’t require a visit to the emergency room:

  • Minor fractures
  • Back pain
  • Minor headaches
  • Cuts, scrapes, bumps
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea
  • Fever
  • Pain in the ear
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Sprains
  • Animal bites
  • Minor burns
  • Rashes
  • Eye irritation
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Cold or flu symptoms

It’s Easily Diagnosable

There are cases where you may already have a pretty good idea of your diagnosis. For example, if you feel pain when you urinate and are experiencing other Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) symptoms, then it’s very likely that you have UTI.

UTIs can cause mild discomfort that may require medical attention and prescription drugs, which will alleviate the pain and help your body recover. In this situation, an urgent care center is where you should go.

It Will Require a Quick Medical Assessment

Urgent care is not a substitute for your primary care doctor, but it’s still a great resource when you need quick medical attention. Sometimes, a health condition may require prompt medical attention and an assurance that you’ll be fine—this is something that urgent care centers can offer!


The three above points are general indications that you should head to a nearby urgent care center instead of the emergency room. Still, trust your gut.

If you feel that your condition requires immediate attention and perhaps specialist equipment, then head to the emergency room where you can get medical care right away. After all, your gut feeling may very well be right. Trust it—even in times like this.

If you are looking for urgent care in New Jersey, get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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