When you’re experiencing a sudden illness or injury, it can be difficult to know whether you should head to the emergency room (ER) or urgent care. However, choosing the right healthcare facility is crucial for receiving the appropriate medical care as well as avoiding unnecessary expenses and strain on the healthcare system.

So, to help you out, we’ll discuss the differences between the ER and urgent care and help you determine where to go based on your symptoms:

ER vs. Urgent Care: Key Differences

Before we delve into specific symptoms, it’s essential to understand the key differences between the ER and urgent care. The ER is designed to handle life-threatening and severe conditions, while urgent care centers are equipped to treat non-life-threatening medical issues that require immediate attention.

1. Scope of Services

The ER can treat or refer virtually any medical condition, while urgent care centers are limited to non-life-threatening issues. ERs have access to specialists, advanced diagnostic equipment, and a wide range of treatments that may not be available at an urgent care center.

2. Wait Times

In general, urgent care centers have shorter wait times than ERs, as ERs prioritize patients based on the severity of their conditions. If your condition is not life-threatening, you may experience a significantly longer wait time at the ER.

3. Cost

ER visits are typically more expensive than urgent care visits, and the difference in cost can be substantial. If your issue is not life-threatening, choosing urgent care over the ER can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

4. Operating Hours

Most ERs are open 24/7, while urgent care centers may have limited hours. However, many urgent care centers are open late and on weekends to accommodate patients with non-life-threatening issues that require immediate attention.

Where to Go Based on Your Symptoms

Now that we understand the key differences between ERs and urgent care centers, let’s discuss where to go based on your symptoms. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and when in doubt, you should always call your healthcare provider or seek immediate medical attention.

ER Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms or conditions, go to the ER:

  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack
  • Signs of a stroke
  • Severe difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Severe head injury or loss of consciousness.
  • Uncontrolled or severe bleeding.
  • Seizures.
  • Severe allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or throat
  • Severe burns or large open wounds.
  • Poisoning or exposure to dangerous chemicals.
  • Suicidal thoughts or homicidal feelings.

Urgent Care Symptoms

In case you encounter any of the listed symptoms or health issues, make sure to visit an urgent care facility.

  • Minor cuts, burns, or wounds requiring stitches.
  • Sprains, strains, or closed fractures.
  • Mild to moderate asthma attacks.
  • Fever without a rash (in adults) or fever with a non-purpuric rash (in children).
  • Earaches, sore throats, or sinus pain.
  • Non-life-threatening allergic reactions, such as localized hives or rashes.
  • Skin infections or abscesses.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Mild to moderate dehydration.
  • Diagnostic services like X-rays and lab tests.


Knowing where to go based on your symptoms can save you time and money, and it ensures you receive the proper medical care. While this guide provides a general overview of which symptoms warrant a trip to the ER or urgent care, it’s always best to contact your healthcare provider or seek immediate medical attention if you’re unsure!

UCM is a company that operates five facilities across Michigan and Ohio, providing urgent care services to the Southeastern Michigan region for the past 25 years. Since its inception in 1997, UCM has been offering top-notch, all-inclusive healthcare at a significantly lower price compared to nearby Emergency Rooms, backed by their extensive experience of over two decades. If you are looking for an urgent care in Adrian or anywhere else, reach out to us today!

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