Before the widespread existence of urgent care clinics in the United States, the emergency room was the only place you could access direct medical care for a pressing health problem. But the appearance of urgent care providers in most communities has led to a fundamental shift in this dynamic. Urgent care practices offer:
- Convenient walk-in care
- Prompt medical attention
- A shorter wait than the ER
- An in-house diagnostic lab
- Affordable, low-cost care
When you have a serious but non-life-threatening health concern that just can’t wait for a scheduled appointment with your regular primary care provider, urgent care specialist Dr. Lerner and our team of board-certified providers at Stuart Lerner, MD, in Kailua, Hawaii, are here to help.
Emergency room vs. urgent care
With its hospital connection, advanced technology, unlimited hours, and fast access to trauma and cardiovascular specialists, your local emergency room is the right place to go when you’re experiencing a serious medical issue that requires immediate care — including sudden, severe symptoms or any other life- or limb-threatening condition or injury.
The ER is the best place to go for severe headaches, abdominal pain, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, burns, and lacerations; it’s also the right place for problems like:
- Chest pain; shortness of breath
- Seizures, fainting, or dizziness
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Sudden weakness or numbness
- Eye or head injuries (concussion)
- Complex fracture; joint dislocation
- Poison ingestion; toxin exposure
Urgent care, on the other hand, is the place to go when you have a pressing medical problem that can’t wait for a scheduled visit with your doctor, but isn’t severe enough to be considered a life- or limb-threatening emergency.
Seven reasons to head to urgent care
Our urgent care experts evaluate and treat non-emergency patients with pressing medical needs weekdays 8:30am-5pm. Common reasons people come to our office include:
1. Upper respiratory symptoms
Respiratory symptoms — including cough, congestion, sore throat, fever, chills, and body aches — are a top reason patients head to urgent care.
We can diagnose viral infections like influenza and COVID-19 and prescribe an anti-viral to lessen the severity and duration of your illness; we can also diagnose and treat infections that may be viral or bacterial, such as a sinus infection (sinusitis), pneumonia, and bronchitis.
2. A persistent sore throat
While a sore throat is a common symptom of many viral infections, a very sore throat, or one that persists longer than a few days, may be a sign of strep throat. Strep is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can cause serious complications if it’s not treated with antibiotics.
3. Gastrointestinal symptoms
Digestive symptoms that last longer than a day or two — such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mild to moderate abdominal pain — are another common reason people seek urgent care. Our evaluation can determine if you have food poisoning, the stomach flu, or something else.
4. A suspected eye/ear infection
Itchy, irritated eyes that look pink or bloodshot warrant a visit to urgent care, as does ear pain, especially when it affects hearing, interferes with sleep, or comes with a fever.
Red, irritated eyes are often a sign of conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Our team can determine whether it’s allergic, bacterial, or viral, and prescribe the right treatment. Most ear infections are viral and clear up on their own, but a severe or persistent earache may require antibiotics.
5. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
More common in women and older adults, a UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply in the bladder. Symptoms include a strong, persistent urge to urinate, burning sensations while urinating, and cloudy or strong-smelling urine. We can diagnose a UTI with a simple urine test (urinalysis), and resolve the problem with antibiotics.
6. Muscle strains, joint sprains
Joint sprains, muscle strains, suspected bone fractures, and other musculoskeletal injuries call for prompt evaluation and treatment. Whether you twist your ankle in the game, hurt your wrist in a fall, or tweak your back during heavy lifting, it’s a good idea to head to urgent care.
7. Skin rashes and minor wounds
Our urgent care team can also diagnose and treat a full scope of skin-affecting problems, ranging from rashes and insect bites to minor burns and small cuts that may need stitches.
Do you have a pressing medical need?
If you have a non-emergency medical need that requires prompt attention, we can help. Stop by our office in Kailua, Hawaii, for walk-in urgent care at your convenience, or call or click online to schedule a visit at Stuart Lerner, MD, in Kailua, Hawaii, anytime.