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ARTICLE Knowing When to Seek Emergency Care

Knowing When to Seek Emergency Care

When facing unexpected medical conditions, you may want to go to the emergency room first. But this may not always be your best choice. At the ER, true emergencies are usually treated first. Other cases must wait - sometimes for hours. And it may cost you more.

When to visit your primary care physician

If it's not urgent, it may be best to go to your primary care doctor. Your doctor knows you and your health history. He or she can access your medical records. Plus, your doctor can provide follow-up care and refer you to specialists.

If it's not an emergency, consider contacting the NurseLineSM.

NurseLine and Live Nurse Chat services can help you make smart health care decisions with immediate access to experienced registered nurses. You can:

  • Find a doctor or hospital
  • Understand treatment options that you can discuss with your doctor
  • Seek answers to medication questions
  • Locate available resources

To talk to a NurseLine nurse, call the customer care number on the back of your I.D. card. Or if you prefer talking to a nurse online, log in to to access Live Nurse Chat. To get there: >> Live Nurse Chat

When to seek urgent care

Sometimes, you may need care fast. If your primary care physician is unavailable, you may want to try an urgent care center or retail health clinic in your network. Some employers also offer on-site health services for minor ailments. Chances are you won't have to wait as long as at the ER. You may pay less, too.

Urgent care centers and retail health clinics can typically treat things like:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Minor broken bones (example: finger)
  • Minor infections
  • Small cuts
  • Sore throats
  • Rashes

When to go to the emergency room

In an emergency, go to the ER. Consider seeking immediate assistance for:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Large open wounds
  • Sudden change in vision
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weakness or trouble talking
  • Major burns
  • Spinal injuries
  • Severe head injury
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Major broken bones