You know your body better than anyone, so you know when something doesn’t feel right and you need to seek medical help. The next decision comes in deciding whether your symptoms constitute going to the emergency room or to an urgent care center. While there are convenient care options today that offer both types of treatment, you still need to know the difference of an emergency vs non-emergency. Know these serious symptoms that justify seeking treatment in emergency rooms so that you don’t have to spend time making this time-sensitive decision.

  1. Unusual abdominal pain: Everyone gets stomach cramps once in a while that cause pain, but if you’re experiencing sudden and serious abdominal pain, the emergency room is often best equipped to handle it. This kind of pain often indicates appendicitis, an intestinal blockage, or problems with the gallbladder, liver, or kidney that require surgery. If your abdominal pain is primarily on one side of your body, that can especially indicate that you need an emergency procedure.
  2. Uncontrollable bleeding: In the battle of emergency vs non-emergency, this symptom can be hard to pinpoint. While urgent care centers can efficiently handle injuries that just require stitches, severe lacerations that may affect muscles or tendons would need emergency surgery and treatment.
  3. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath: A serious lung or heart condition can cause difficulty breathing. While this symptom can also be from asthma, allergies, or overexertion, you should be able to catch your breath in these cases after some time and using medication you have to treat asthma or allergies. Any unusual struggle you have in catching your breath warrants emergency medical attention.
  4. Severe and/or persistent vomiting or diarrhea: For those with weaker immune systems, like the elderly or young people, severe gastrointestinal problems can lead to more serious issues very quickly. When your body is going through these symptoms, you’re at risk for severe dehydration. If the serious symptoms last for more than 24 hours or you have a fever along with them, seek emergency medical treatment.
  5. Confusion or severe headaches: A variety of neurological symptoms could be signaling a stroke, brain embolism, or aneurysm. These symptoms include headaches like you’ve never experienced, confusion or change in mental status, changes in vision, difficulty walking or speaking, or unusual behavior. If you’ve suffered a head injury recently, these symptoms could indicate a concussion and necessitate immediate treatment.

While only 3% of patients who go to an urgent care center need to be directed to an emergency department instead, it’s important to go to the emergency room straight away if you need to. Knowing the answer to the debate of emergency vs non-emergency is key to getting the medical treatment you need right away.