​​​​​​​​​​Should you go to urgent care or the emergency room?

Medical problems can happen to anyone, anytime—and they often strike during the evening or weekend, when your regular doctor’s office is closed. In these situations, it’s natural to feel unsure about where to seek medical care, especially if your symptoms worry you.

The Christ Hospital Health Network offers three options for people who want (or need) to be treated right away:

Knowing the differences between these options and choosing wisely can save you time and money. And in a true medical emergency, knowing where to go for treatment could save your life. 

Emergency care vs urgent care: what's the difference?

The terms “urgent care” and “emergency care” both imply a need for rapid medical attention. However, these terms are not interchangeable. They refer to two different levels of care and preparedness.

Think of urgent care centers as an extension of your primary care doctor’s office. They’re places you can get care for mild illnesses or minor injuries when your doctor isn’t available—and you don’t want to wait until morning or Monday.

Emergency rooms (ER) are equipped to provide life- and limb-saving care for the most serious illnesses and injuries. They offer advanced services and treatments that are only available in a hospital setting, such as operating rooms and intensive care units. 

For many people with health insurance, urgent care visits have a lower co-pay than ER visits. But keep in mind that urgent care centers are not set up to handle medical emergencies.

Use this helpful guide to help you decide if you need in person urgent care, emergency care, or might benefit from a video visit.

​What type of care do I need?

​Condition / Illness / Injury

​Video Visit

​Urgent Care


​Abscess needing drainage

Allergic reaction (severe) anaphylaxis​



​Animal bite (minor)

​Asthma attack (minor)

​Asthma attack (severe)

Bleeding that won't stop​

​Broken bone (bone intact)

​Broken bone (bone sticking out of skin)

​Burn (minor)

Burn (severe)​

​Cast problems (wet or soiled)

Chest pain or pressure​



Cough (other than coughing up blood)​

Cut (minor)​

​Cut (severe)

​Deep wound



Difficulty breathing / shortness of breath​

Dizziness, balance problems or loss of coordination​

Earache and ear infection​



​Head injury (minor and without loss of consciousness)

Head injury (severe) or concussion​


Headache (migraine)​

​Impacted ear

​Insect bite

​Nausea/vomiting (non-severe)

​Pink eye



​Psychiatric evaluation


​Rash with fever


​Severe pain

​Severe vomiting or diarrhea


​Sore throat

​Sprain / strain


​Stomach pain (mild)

​Stomach pain (severe)

Swallowed object​

Trouble speaking or understanding speech​

​Urinary infection

​Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

​Vomiting or coughing up blood

Weakness or paralysis in arm, leg, or face​

When to call 9-1-1

Sometimes it's obvious that you need to go to the ER. But driving yourself there isn't always the safest option. Call 9-1-1 instead of getting behind the wheel if you:

  • Have chest pain 

  • Had a seizure

  • Have trouble seeing

  • Feel like you might faint

  • Have trouble breathing

  • Are bleeding heavily

Calling 9-1-1 helps ensure you make it to the ER, even if you lose consciousness. And in some cases, paramedics will begin treatment in the ambulance, before you even reach the hospital.