ER, urgent care or your doctor's office? Know where to go and when

November 30, 2022 Swedish Health Team

[4 min read]

In this article: 

  • Whether it's cold or flu symptoms or a sudden illness or injury, it can be hard to know where to go to seek the right treatment. 

  • Advice on your symptoms to help you decide if virtual care, urgent care or the emergency department is the right place to get care when you need it. 

  • Links to help you find the right place and provider for you and your children. 

An illness or injury can happen any time. It’s important to know where to go seek the right treatment. Providence Swedish wants to help you make the right decision to get the right care, when you need it. 
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you should go to the emergency department, urgent care, or your doctor’s office — especially if a situation is sudden, urgent or painful. One thing to keep in mind is that your primary care physician knows you and your health history best so, when possible, visit your doctor’s office. Here are some tips to help you decide if you should visit an urgent care, your doctor, or an emergency department. *  

Visit an urgent care clinic for: 

  • Minor wounds 
  • Sprains and fractures
  • Earaches
  • Rashes without fevers
  • Abdominal pain
Visit your primary care doctor or make an appointment for an ExpressCare visit for: 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Minor burns
  • Asthma
  • STD screenings
  • Strep throat 
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Flu shots and vaccinations

Visit the Emergency Department for: 

  • Chest pain and/or difficulty breathing
  • Stroke symptoms, such as slurred speech
  • Serious burns 
  • Head or eye injuries
  • Severe cuts requiring stitches
  • Bleeding or pain during pregnancy 
  • Broken bones
  • Paralysis
  • Vision loss
  • Seizure
  • Severe trauma
  • Poisoning
  • If you are unsure of the seriousness of your condition

* Symptoms of illness can look different in children than in adults. Seek in-person medical care for any child with signs of dehydration, difficulty breathing, or changes in mental status or responsiveness. You should also seek in-person medical attention for young children with new or worsening rashes and babies under 2 months of age with a fever over 100.4 F. You can always call your child's primary health care provider if you have questions about your child's illness." 


Learn more and find a provider

If you have a health issue or concern, it’s important to see a provider for the right care when you need it. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options with Providence Swedish and Providence.

Providence Swedish 

For urgent, walk-in or after-hours care, visit one of Swedish Urgent Care facilities. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our Swedish provider directoryIf you have questions about care for your children or want to schedule vaccines and immunizations for them, contact Swedish Pediatrics or your child’s primary care provider.


For urgent, walk-in or after-hours care, visit a Providence Express Clinic or Providence Urgent Care Clinic. You can also schedule affordable, online care 7 days a week at Providence ExpressCare Virtual. Use our Providence provider directory to find a doctor. 

Additional resources

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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