Spare yourself the trauma with Brenna Benjamin.

Brenna Benjamin handles Trauma Program Injury Prevention and Outreach for Emergency Services at NorthBay Healthcare. Her blog focuses on preventive safety measures and true trauma encounters.

You can e-mail her at:

Brenna started writing for this blog September of 2017.

Is It An Emergency?

October 31, 2018

Illness or injuries come when you least expect them: You trip carrying in your groceries and suddenly your ankle is swollen and can't bear weight, or your baby develops a high fever after hours or on the weekend.

Sometimes the unexpected situation brings uncertainty about where to go for care, especially if the symptoms seem severe and your regular doctor's office is closed or booked up.

While the answer is not always simple, knowing the difference between urgent care and emergency care and where to seek treatment could spare you a lot of trauma.

When to go to ER

There are a number of medical conditions that are considered emergencies because they can require rapid or advanced treatments (such as surgery) that are only available in a hospital setting.

Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness/numbness on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting/change in mental state
  • Serious burns
  • Head or eye injury
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Fever with a rash
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

When to call 911

Even if it is clear that you or your loved one needs emergency care, you may be confused about driving to the emergency room or calling 911.

You should never drive yourself if you are having severe chest pain or severe bleeding, if you feel like you might faint or if your vision is impaired. When in doubt, call 911 - what matters most is that you get to the emergency room quickly and safely and that no one else on the road is injured in the process..

For certain medical emergencies such as a heart attack or stroke, calling 911 for an ambulance is always the right decision because paramedics can begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

When to go to urgent care

Urgent care is not emergency care. Unfortunately, studies have found that among patients who have visited the emergency room but were not admitted, nearly half reported they went because their doctor's office was not open.

The ER shouldn't be where you get after-hours care for minor illnesses or injuries.

NorthBay Urgent Care in Vacaville and the Care 'til 8 clinics in the Vacaville and Fairfield Center for Primary Care facilities can handle a variety of medical problems that need to be treated right away, but are not considered true emergencies. Symptoms that can be evaluated and treated include:

  • Fever without a rash
  • Vomiting or persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Dehydration
  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Sprains and strains
  • Small cuts and abrasions

For more on NorthBay Urgent Care, visit

For more on the NorthBay Care 'til 8 clinics, visit

Tags: trauma



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