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Knowing When to Avoid the Emergency Room

There are many situations that offer clear indications you need to go to the emergency room. Any serious condition, like chest pressure or tightness, severe arm pain, a head injury, or other intense bodily harm requires an expedient trip to the emergency room. But, there are some situations that you know require medical attention but might not rise to the necessity of an emergency room visit.

While you should always trust your instincts and take every precaution when faced with a serious medical situation, there are usually a good number of circumstances where a trip to the emergency room would be an unnecessary expense. The average cost of an ER visit can run awfully high—so if it is possible to get the exact same (or even, better) care for less expense then it is almost certainly worth it to do so. Here is a quick guide on know when it is okay to skip the ER.

Common Illnesses

There are plenty of common illnesses that are much better handled by a visit to your primary care doctor than a trip to the emergency room. If you are experiencing low-to-medium pain from an earache, sore throat, fever, or limited rash then you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible, but avoid heading to the emergency room. Same goes for if you are experience moderate symptoms from the flu, a cold, or pink eye. Seeing your doctor will usually result in just a $30-$40 co-pay, while an ER visit could cost upwards of $300 or more out-of-pocket.

Minor Injuries

There are also plenty of injuries that you may encounter that require medical attention but don’t necessarily need you to put up with the sometimes-long waiting periods at the emergency room. If you are feeling any sprains, minor back pain, minor bone fractures, or a second or first-degree burn. These injuries are often better served by a trip to the urgent clinic or your primary care physician. If you experience severe pain for any of these injuries however, don’t hesitate to head to the emergency room.

Unsure? Talk to the Experts

Your health is nothing to gamble with, but unnecessary emergency room visits can come with a cost that can significantly impact your finances. If you aren’t experiencing severe pain and think you might have a common illness or minor injury that could be easily treated by a doctor or at an urgent care center, you can call your healthcare provider for guidance. Technology is also creating video chat options in an industry known as “telemedicine” to give patients a chance to quickly connect with professionals to discuss non-emergency medical situations. By taking the time to understand the severity of your medical condition and talking it over with a professional, you may be able to avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.

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