You’re sick and need to see a doctor. Not sure if you should make an appointment with your primary care physician, drive to your neighborhood urgent care or make a beeline to the ER? Internist Brandon McElroy, M.D., with Beaufort Memorial Lady’s Island Internal Medicine, will help you decide the best course of action.
Q I’ve been throwing up for hours and feel like the walking dead. Am I better off going to my doctor or the nearest urgent care?
Your doctor knows your medical history and the medications you’re taking, so it’s best to start there first. Don’t assume you won’t be able to get a last-minute appointment. Most primary care practices reserve a few spots for acute cases.
Q What if it’s after hours or on the weekend when my primary care practice is closed?
If it’s a nonlife-threatening illness or injury, like a stomach virus, sprained ankle or urinary tract infection, an urgent care center should be able to provide the treatment you need. For medical issues that require prolonged observation, advanced imaging tests or extensive lab work, it’s best to go to the emergency department. An urgent care center is not equipped to handle those kinds of problems and will advise you to go to the ER.
Q Is there any way to avoid a long wait in the ER?
Beaufort Memorial Hospital now offers online ER check-in for patients with non-life-threatening conditions. With the hospital’s convenient self-scheduling service, you can go online and choose from a list of available check-in times. To use the free service, go to www.beaufortmemorial.org.
Q What kind of symptoms would be considered life-threatening?
Go to the ER immediately or call 911 if you:
- Pass out.
- Have pain in the chest, arm or jaw.
- Experience shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
- Have severe abdominal pain or a headache that comes on suddenly.
- Are unable to speak, see, walk or move.
- Experience drooping on one side of your body or face.