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Do you have a health concern that needs urgent attention?

Knowing whether you should make a trip to the emergency room for immediate treatment or go to the nearest urgent care clinic — or to simply stay home — can be a tough decision, especially if you’ve never experienced the symptoms you’re having before.

To make sure you’re going to the right place, here’s a look at the top three questions you should ask yourself before making a trip to the ER:

Is it a true emergency?

There are some health conditions, like chest pain, difficulty breathing and severe abdominal pain, that should always be treated like a true emergency. You should always seek immediate treatment if you experience them. For other, less immediate illnesses or injuries, you’re usually better off going to an urgent care clinic. In many cases,, your personal instinct can be the best judge.

Is my primary care doctor available?

If you have a guess as to what your illness could be, and it’s within normal business hours, you might be able to get a same-day appointment at your primary doctor. This is advantageous because your doctor will have your medical records on file, including a list of what treatments have worked for you previously, and you’ll know for certain that your insurance will cover most or all of the cost of your visit.

How long are the wait times?

It’s not uncommon to arrive at a hospital’s emergency care department, only to find dozens of people already waiting. If you have an urgent health concern that needs attention, you likely don’t want to wait hours to be seen. The wait times at urgent care clinics are often much lower. However, if you feel you have a true medical emergency, always go to the ER — as they move patients forward in line who need immediate care most.

If you’re experiencing new or worsened symptoms, it’s more than likely that an urgent care center will be able to give you the treatment you need. In fact, a mere 3% of urgent care visits need to be diverted to the ER, one survey found. Knowing which immediate care facility you should go to can save you hundreds of dollars and countless hours of time.

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