Harvard Women's Health Watch

Can't wait to see the doctor? You have choices

Emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and retail clinics offer immediate care. Your symptoms determine which to use.

You've probably had an illness or injury that you weren't quite sure how to handle. Maybe it was a rattling cough, a finger slammed in a car door, or a rash crawling up your arm. If you can't get in to see your doctor, you have a few options for immediate treatment—the clinic at the nearby shopping mall, an urgent care center, or the emergency room at the nearest hospital. How do you decide which one to go to?

"The decision depends on the kind of problem you have," says Dr. Jay Schuur, assistant professor of emergency medicine, Harvard Medical School. "Some symptoms should almost always be evaluated in the emergency department, while others don't require that level of care."

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