Getting Care When It Is Not Coronavirus-Related

Know when to go to urgent care or emergency room

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. But that doesn’t mean you can or should put your medical issues on hold. So, what should you do during this crisis if you need medical care for a condition unrelated to COVID-19?

Keep essential appointments

It’s important that you keep essential visits with your physician for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, as well as appointments for neurological issues, pre- and post-natal care and pediatrics. Visits can be conducted in your doctor’s office or virtually. Please check with your doctor to see which option is right for you.

Emergency care for conditions unrelated to COVID-19

While the answer is not always simple, knowing the level of care you need whether it be an emergency room, urgent care or telemedicine — could save your life in a medical emergency and can ensure that you get appropriate treatment while allowing hospitals to make the best use of their available resources.

When to go to an emergency room

There are several medical conditions that are considered emergencies — whether related or unrelated to COVID-19 — because they can require rapid or advanced treatments — such as surgery — that are only available in a hospital setting.

Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness/numbness on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting/change in mental state
  • Serious burns
  • Head or eye injury
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Fever with a rash
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

Under no circumstance should you avoid going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you feel that your symptoms are truly serious. If you decide to seek emergency care, you will be screened for COVID-19 before you are allowed into the facility to better identify and isolate those with the virus.

When to call 911

Even if it is clear that you or your loved one needs emergency care, you may be unsure whether to drive to an emergency room or call 911.

When in doubt, call 911. It’s important that you get to the emergency room quickly and safely, especially if you are experiencing severe chest pain or severe bleeding, or if you feel like you might faint or have impaired vision.

For certain medical emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, calling 911 for an ambulance is always the right decision. This is because paramedics often can begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

Emergency room or urgent care

Sometimes, you’ll need to make a judgment call to decide if an injury or illness requires visiting an emergency room or going to an urgent care facility. Urgent care centers are same-day clinics that can handle a variety of medical problems that need to be treated right away but are not considered true emergencies.

Symptoms that can be evaluated and treated at an urgent care clinic include:

  • Fever without a rash
  • Vomiting or persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Dehydration
  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Sprains and strains
  • Small cuts that may require stitches

Telehealth for non-emergencies

If your symptoms come on gradually or you already know the diagnosis — for example, you have repeat urinary tract infections, or you recognize when your child has come down with an ear infection — it’s worth checking out your virtual care options, and see if you can have a telehealth video visit with your primary care doctor.

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