ER or family doctor: Where should you get some common conditions treated?

Archive, July, Month

Questions can arise for where to get common, non-life-threatening conditions treated.

If anyone should see the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke in themselves or someone around them, the first move should be to call 911 and request an ambulance.

The same should be done if there’s been an accident, and bones are broken and wounds are significantly bleeding.

For these potentially life-threatening conditions or severe injuries, immediate treatment should be sought at the nearest ER and trauma center.

But what about common, non-life-threatening conditions?

“The most important thing in any situation is to not delay care — don’t put it off,” said Dr. Harrison Tong, an emergency physician at McLaren Oakland. “Not all conditions are life-threatening, but there are definitely conditions that need immediate evaluation and treatment in the emergency department. At the same time, patients have a certain level of comfort with their primary care physicians, and they’re absolutely capable in countless situations.”

Incidents happen all the time that make many pause and question if they need to quickly get to the ER, or if it is something that’s better suited for the family doctor.

In which scenarios is it necessary for emergency care to be sought?

Scenario 1

You’re out in nature, and a bug flies onto your arm. A second later, you feel the pinch of a bug bite or the sting of a stinger, and after the bug flies away, the red mark of irritation is left on your skin.

Scenario 2

Making a meal at home, the knife you’re using slips and you accidentally cut yourself. The wound is steadily bleeding, and you’re definitely sure you’ll need stitches.

Scenario 3

You’ve had a cough and slight fever for a few days. Even after going to the drug store to get a cold medication it still hasn’t gotten any better.

Scenario 4

You were just active in some way — it could be running, doing yard work, shoveling snow or even playing around with the dog — and you feel a pain in your chest. It’s not debilitating, but it’s consistent and hasn’t gone away.

Scenario 5

You’re on a ladder a few feet off the ground changing a light bulb. You lose your balance and fall, and you feel a pain and weakness in your arm that isn’t going away. You think you might have a broken arm.

Scenario 6

When you’re cooking dinner, your arm strays too close to a hot pan and you get burned. There’s a red mark and it soon blisters.

Scenario 7

Running around outside, playing a game, you fall and hit your head. You stand up and you’re a little dizzy and soon after, you get a headache.

Scenario 8

Running outside you slip and roll your ankle. A couple of days of ice and resting it, it’s not yet better, but it’s also not getting any worse. It still hurts when you walk.

Scenario 9

Going about your normal day you develop some pain in your abdomen. The pain is not going away, and it’s getting more intense.
It’s best to know where the nearest emergency department is from your home, and also to have your primary care doctor’s office number saved to your phone for quick access (even off-hours, many still have on-call numbers for patients to call).

When facing emergencies such as a heart attack, stroke or an injury that risks a limb, the first action should be to call 911 to get to the nearest capable emergency department.

It’s always beneficial to have a primary care physician — a doctor who continually tracks their patients’ health over time, monitoring changes, making recommendations for specialized care and ensuring all screenings are performed.


Emergency care at McLaren Oakland

Learn more about emergency care at McLaren Oakland, and check-in to the McLaren Clarkston emergency department from your phone to minimize your wait when you arrive.

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Primary care with McLaren Oakland

Don’t have a primary care physician? Make an appointment with a McLaren Oakland primary care physician online.

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