When you need medical care, you have a few options: your doctor, an urgent care center (or clinic) or the hospital. But figuring out where to go isn’t always easy. Use the information below if you think you need care but are unsure what to do. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor so you have a plan for what to do when you need care during or after their office hours.
The most important thing to remember is that where you go for medical care depends on the severity of your condition.
For non-life-threatening conditions:
Call your primary care doctor’s office first to get help and advice, a same-day appointment or instructions for after-hours care.
Visit an urgent care center if your doctor’s office is closed or can’t give you a same-day appointment. Urgent care centers are staffed by licensed clinicians, have extended hours and can treat many common conditions, including:
- Aches, pains and headaches
- Cold and flu symptoms, sinus problems and earaches
- Cuts and abrasions, including stitches
- Minor asthma attacks
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and minor abdominal pain
- Painful urination
- Pink eye
- Skin allergies, rashes, and insect and animal bites
- Sprains, strains and minor broken bones
Use our Symptom Checker to help you understand your symptoms.
For life-threatening conditions:
Go to the emergency room or call 911 if your condition is serious and you need care immediately. Life-threatening conditions include:
- Chest pain or heart attacks
- Difficulty breathing
- Head injuries or other major traumas
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe bleeding
- Strokes, weakness or numbness on one side. (Learn more about the signs of stroke.)
Urgent care center list
Find a doctor in our directory