Should you go to urgent care or the ER? What you need to know

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ExpressCare Urgent Care Centers are a convenient alternative for families.

In the case of a medical emergency, some people don't know if their situation calls for a visit to the emergency room or their local urgent care center.

While urgent care centers like ExpressCare can handle most medical needs, certain conditions require different types of attention.

Here's how to determine whether you need the ER or urgent care.

1.Broken bones.

Urgent care

Minor broken bones like a wrist or a finger and a sprained ankle can be treated at urgent care centers. Doctors can do x-rays and provide splints or bandages. They can also refer you to a specialist if needed.


For any large broken bones like an arm, leg, neck, hip, or for protruding bones, get to the ER right away.


Urgent care

For fevers under 102.5 degrees with cold-like symptoms, there is no need to worry. If the symptoms worsen and last more than a few days, the doctors at urgent care can help.


If the fever is higher than 103 degrees and is accompanied by a sharp pain in other parts of the body like the head or abdomen, get to the ER ASAP.


Urgent care

Headaches due to skipped meals, lack of water, or stress usually aren't a call for concern. If the pain is constant or if you get migraines often, get to your nearest urgent care center or call your primary doctor.


If a headache suddenly hits you out of nowhere with intense pain or if you take a blow to the head while playing a sport and the pain persists hours or days after, go to the ER.

4.Abdominal pain.

Urgent care

If you have been diagnosed with abdominal pain related to digestive issues like IBS and something seems to be off, urgent care will be your go-to.


Random stabbing or shooting pain in the belly area is a big sign that something is wrong like, most commonly with appendicitis, liver, or pancreas. Get to the ER ASAP!

5.Chest pain.

Urgent care

If an intense workout out causes chest pain for a short while, more than likely it is not serious. The experts at urgent care can run tests and treat as needed.

Chest pain is tricky which is why it's important to know the symptoms of heart failure, heart disease, and strokes.

According to Men's Health, if "you're over 55, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, you're a smoker, diabetic, overweight, inactive, or a have a family history," the chances of chest-related pain resulting in a heart attack or stroke is higher. The ER should always be your first go to when it relates to chest pain.

6.School, Athletic, and Pre-Employment Exams.

Urgent care

If your primary care doctor is unavailable or if you do not have one, urgent care centers provide physical exams for school and pre-employment. They also specialize in sports physicals by providing a two-part review to ensure your child is in the best condition to play.


The emergency room is the last place you should go for a check-up. It will be hours before a doctor sees you, and you're bound to find an insane medical bill in the mail. Remember, the ER is for emergencies!

This is for informational purposes only. If you're experiencing a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1.

ExpressCare has 25 convenient locations in Maryland. Visit to learn more about their services and to find the location nearest to you.