Urgent Care or Emergency Room: When to Go

It’s a common misconception that an urgent care center is the same thing as an emergency room. But how do you know when to go to urgent care or when you should head for the nearest hospital emergency room?


Sarasota Memorial’s Urgent Care Centers can provide immediate, comprehensive treatment for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries, as well as X-rays, lab testing and immunizations. But urgent care clinics do not have the life-saving equipment that is available in emergency rooms and trauma centers like Sarasota Memorial Hospital, nor can they provide emergency surgery.


If you are experiencing signs of a stroke, heart attack or other life-threatening condition, call 911 and go straight to the emergency room. If you’re experiencing chest pain, impaired consciousness, bleeding that won’t stop or difficulty breathing, call 911 and get to the hospital ER quickly.


UCC or ER: A Breakdown by Symptoms

Go to an Urgent Care Center for:
Non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries for patients older than 3 months, such as—

  • Allergies
  • Animal or insect bites, including tick removal or stings from jellyfish or a stringray
  • Bone fractures or simple breaks
  • Bronchitis
  • Congestion, nasal and chest
  • Cough and cold
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Immunizations: flu; tetanus; tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • Minor burns, cuts or bleeding that may require stitches
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes
  • Sinus infection
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains / strains
  • Strep throat
  • TB Tests
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting that isn’t constant


Go to the Emergency Room for:

True medical emergencies and traumas, or medical conditions that require immediate treatment between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

  • Heart attack symptoms: Chest pain, any suspicion of heart ailment, heart irregularity
  • Stroke symptoms: Weakness on one side, tingling, numbness, facial drooping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Blood in stool
  • Coughing blood or vomiting blood
  • Debilitating headache
  • Dehydration (weakness, no longer sweating, no urination in 12 hours, confusion, dizziness, nausea)
  • Falls while pregnant
  • Head injuries
  • High fever
  • Infant care, any symptoms if patient is younger than 3 months old
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns / cuts / wounds
  • Severe injury / trauma
  • Shortness of breath / gasping / respiratory distress
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden paralysis
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Visible fracture / broken bones / dislocation
  • Vomiting that won’t stop


Urgent Care for Children

When deciding whether to take a child (older than 3 months) to urgent care or the ER, first assess how responsive the child is. If your child is still answering questions coherently and making eye contact, they generally can be seen at an urgent care.


If a child is in respiratory distress, vomiting to point of lethargy, having seizures or suffered a head injury, call 9-1-1 and get them to the ER as soon as possible.


If your child is not responsive or is lethargic from a fever, get them to the ER—no matter what the thermometer says. If the fever is under 101.5 and the child is acting normally, an urgent care visit most likely will suffice.