Whether you have an inexplicable rash or difficulty breathing, we’ve all had a medical scare. In some cases, emergency care was what was needed, but in other cases, a visit to urgent care suited just fine. Urgent care is a wonderful after hours medical care option or place to go if you need convenient care that’s urgent, but a non-emergency. Though the urgent care center market is fairly fragmented (per HealthCare Appraisers), that also means that there’s likely an urgent care center in your area that’s easily accessible. They can allay fears of how to treat shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or any other minor illnesses or injuries that might crop up. They can also recommend you to a specialist if their solutions for how to treat shortness of breath aren’t working or they suspect that you need more intensive care. 

How to Treat Shortness of Breath 

Initial suggestions on how to treat shortness of breath might be to try pursed lip breathing, which slows down how quickly you’re breathing, making every breath you take deeper, and therefore, more effective. You might also try supported breathing — either standing or sitting. 

However, if your shortness of breath isn’t going away, your doctor might prescribe a bronchodilator to relax your airways. If you’re asthmatic, staying away from triggers, getting extra oxygen, and quitting smoking can all help. Sometimes shortness of breath is because one is anemic, in which case, iron supplements can help. 

Certain lifestyle changes may also assist in reducing shortness of breath. Staying away from pollutants or allergens if you can, eating well, and getting enough sleep can help resolve any medical issues that might be contributing to shortness of breath. And losing weight can also help if you’re obese or overweight. 

The Benefits of Urgent Care 

In the United States, there are over 7,000 active urgent care centers, that see on average, around 12,000 patients a year. The number of urgent care centers has grown in recent years, in part because of the benefits they offer to those seeking medical care. 

Urgent care often offers extended hours — during the morning and in the evening — and often on weekends or holidays, which many doctors’ offices can’t accommodate. This allows patients to seek medical care when something urgent arises and can’t wait until the next appointment, or to fit in medical care when it’s more convenient for them. 

Furthermore, as doctors’ offices and emergency rooms see increasingly longer wait times, in their 2016 Benchmarking Report, the Urgent Care Association of America reported that over 90% of urgent care centers had wait times of a half hour or less in 2015. Most people can be in and out of an urgent care center within an hour. 

Urgent care often works with multiple insurances as well and can cover a wide range of minor illnesses and injuries. In some cases, they might have X-ray capabilities or be able to administer physicals for sports, schools, or other institutions that require them. 

When to Go to Urgent Care 

Some urgent care centers may also partner with an emergency room, so you don’t have to choose one or the other — you can simply head to one building and get your needs taken care of. However, a good rule of thumb is to remember that urgent care is for urgent medical situations — not life-threatening ones — whereas the emergency room should be reserved for emergencies. 

Medical conditions that need to be seen and treated with some urgency (like a urinary tract infection or a bad case of the flu, for example) are perfect for an urgent care center to handle. However, there are signs of a heart attack or stroke, the person is unconscious, or bleeding heavily, you should go straight to the emergency room. 

Urgent care centers are an increasingly important part of our healthcare system, helping to take the strain off emergency rooms in many cases, and offering affordable, accessible care where it’s needed. Knowing where your local urgent care center is ahead of time can be immensely helpful.