When You Should—and Shouldn’t—Go to an Urgent Care Center

by bcbsm

| 2 min read

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: You really are seeing urgent care centers popping up everywhere. In fact, they are one of the fastest-growing segments in the American healthcare system. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, around three million patients visit an urgent care center each week. With close to 10,000 urgent care centers open across the country, chances are there’s at least one near where you live. And that probably makes you wonder: When would you need to go to one? First off, what is an urgent care center? An urgent care center is designed to handle health problems that need immediate attention but aren’t life-threatening or emergencies, like stitches, sprains and x-rays. They are staffed by medical doctors who are able to treat more serious issues. Urgent care centers are different from in-store retail clinics (like the ones you may find at Walgreens or CVS), which are usually staffed by physicians assistants or nurse practitioners and focus on providing convenient, routine care like flu shots or treatments for minor issues like an ear infection. When should I visit an urgent care center? When at all possible, the best first step when seeking non-emergency care is to speak with your primary care doctor. Your regular doctor knows you and your medical history, whereas you are meeting a doctor at an urgent care center for the first time. Because of that, your primary doctor will be able to figure out which symptoms are uncharacteristic for you and help answer medical questions while taking into account any past issues. If you need immediate attention for a non-life-threatening issue and cannot see your primary care physician—maybe it’s the middle of the night or you’re on vacation—here is a list of common health problems that urgent care centers can help with:
  • Animal bites
  • Stitches
  • X-rays
  • Back pain
  • Mild asthma
  • Minor headaches
  • Sprains, strains
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Bumps, cuts, scrapes
  • Burning with urination
  • Cough, sore throat
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Eye swelling, irritation, redness or pain
  • Minor allergic reaction
  • Minor fever, colds
  • Rash, minor bumps
  • Vaccination
Want to learn more about care tips and benefits? You may like these posts from this blog as well as A Healthier Michigan:
Photo credit: *Zoup*

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16 Comments

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Zoe Campos

Jul 28, 2020 at 5:48am

It's good to know from this article that there are medical centers that offer urgent care services to situations that aren't life-threatening but needs emergency medical attention. My sister's asthma has been really severe since she was younger and although she often takes her maintenance, we're still not sure when she'd suffer from an asthma attack. It might be better to look for nearby medical facilities like this to ensure that she'll be taken care of once it happens.

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Mia Stewart

May 22, 2019 at 3:47pm

I like how you explained that people go to urgent care for more serious things like stitches or broken bones. If I had a broken bone, I would not want to wait in an ER. It is nice to know you can go to urgent care and get it taken care of there. http://getmedurgentcare.com/plantation-urgent-care/

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Rhianna Hawk

Jan 30, 2019 at 3:18pm

It's good to know that there's another option other than the emergency room, as you said. I appreciate especially where you mention that they can help with animal bites and stitches. My daughter is really active, and so it's good to know where I can take her if she gets hurt. https://www.med7.com/

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Malia Davis

Oct 30, 2018 at 5:57pm

It's good to know that the best times to see an urgent care center are when you have an illness or injury that is not life-threatening and you're not able to see your regular doctor. My husband has problems with his asthma every now and then, and it would be great for us to have a place to go when he really needs help getting his breathing under control. We'll have to find an urgent care center that knows how to treat asthma so that we are always prepared. http://www.kenaidoctor.com/primary

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Blues Perspectives

Sep 13, 2018 at 2:53pm

Thanks Ellen, We appreciate the feedback!

MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association