When to go to the emergency room or doctor’s office

May 19, 2021


Consider these three factors when deciding whether to go to the emergency room or your primary care doctor for an illness or injury.

Symptom severity

Emergency room: Go to the emergency room for any condition that threatens life or limb. Symptoms that should prompt an ER visit include chest pain, obvious trauma, bleeding that won’t stop, difficulty breathing, sudden weakness or confusion, severe pain and mental health crises.

Doctor’s office: Visit your primary care doctor for colds, flu, muscle strains, sprains, chronic disease management, headaches, trouble sleeping and nonurgent mental health issues. For COVID-19 symptoms, call first.

Wait time

Emergency room: ERs treat their sickest patients first, so you may have to wait if other people’s needs are more urgent.

Doctor’s office: Primary care visits are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Having an appointment means you won’t have a long wait once you get to the office.


Emergency room: ERs are more costly but are equipped to deal with many ailments.

Doctor’s office: This is often your least expensive option, usually costing only a copay.

Healthcare from home

Get expert remote care from Adventist Health Clear Lake providers.

Virtual doctor visits: Providers can treat minor illnesses and injuries virtually. Access telehealth care from a smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera and microphone. Ask to be seen virtually when scheduling your appointment.

Hospital@Home: Your home can be transformed into a virtual hospital. Adventist Health’s medical team provides 24/7 monitoring to assess your condition and dispatches clinicians, medication and services to your home as needed.

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