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It's a Saturday afternoon and that game of backyard football got a bit too rambunctious. Now you're cradling your wrist in pain, but you can't tell whether it's broken or just sprained. In this case, it is unlikely that you would need a hospital admission, but it is something that should be assessed quicker than waiting for a Monday office visit. Head to urgent care to get it checked out.
You're putting a sheet of cookies in the oven when your hand brushes against the side of the oven. A small, red welt appears, but after you apply cool water to it, the pain subsides. This is most likely a first-degree burn and will probably heal on its own.
But if you notice blistering or have severe pain or swelling, you have entered second-degree burn territory, which does require a trip to urgent care. Take a detour to the ER, or call 911, if a burn occurs on your face, hands, feet, groin or buttocks, is accompanied by difficulty breathing, or is the result of electricity or chemicals.
If you'd classify your flu symptoms as "pretty normal"—meaning cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and fatigue—then waiting it out or calling your primary care doctor is sufficient. But when symptoms take a more severe turn, as in sudden dizziness, difficulty breathing or persistent vomiting, especially in children and infants, then it's time to head to the emergency room.
You are experiencing sudden, unfamiliar chest pain. If you brush it off as just heartburn, you may be ignoring the first warning sign of a heart attack. Acting fast is key to survival, so call 911 right away. Other symptoms include pain or tingling in one or both arms, back or jaw pain, shortness of breath, or—especially in women—nausea, unexplained sweating and lightheadedness.
You slip on a wet patch of pavement and go down hard, hitting your head on the sidewalk. An hour later, you feel nauseated. Head to the ER to check for a possible concussion, which can cause more severe problems later if left untreated. Other symptoms include blurry vision, sensitivity to light, balance problems or a headache that doesn't go away.
"The key thing is MINOR," says Aakar M. Shah, DO, emergency physician with NCH Immediate Care Center. "If in doubt, give us a call first and we will give you an honest answer about where you should take this. Things like chest pain or abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, go directly to ER."