Curious about what type of care is best for your symptoms? In this guide to care options, learn whether your sickness or injury can be handled by your doctor, video visit or warrants a trip to the Emergency Department.

Your Health

Your Guide for Knowing Where to Go for the Right Type of Care

Curious about what type of care is best for your symptoms? In this guide to care options, learn whether your sickness or injury can be handled by your doctor, video visit or warrants a trip to the Emergency Department.

It’s 2 a.m. and your toddler is fevered, exhausted, and complaining of an earache. You’re not sure it’s an emergency, but the thought of waiting it out until the morning sounds miserable for everyone. What do you do?

If you’ve ever wondered where to go when you’re feeling sick or injured, you’re not alone. Nearly 130 million people head to the emergency room each year, but a large percentage of those visits are not actual emergencies.

While we are fortunate to have several accessible options for care available, how do you know where to go—and when? Here, we’ll dive into the types of care available and where you should go depending on your symptoms. 

When to Visit Your Primary Care Provider

If you are established with a family doctor or pediatrician, think of primary care as your friend and advocate. He or she knows your family’s medical history and can offer health insight that other types of care may take longer to provide. If your little one suffers from chronic ear infections that don’t respond to past medications, for example, your primary care doctor may be able to provide more effective solutions quickly.

You should visit your primary care doctor, for:

  • Basic, yearly check-ups, vaccinations, and health screenings
  • If you are feeling under the weather and don’t feel your life is in immediate danger
  • Or if you have chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. 

You’ll need to schedule an appointment—but if your concern is not urgent, this is the best choice for you. Atrium Health’s primary care practices have appointments within 24 hours. You can easily find an appointment with a doctor near you with our online booking tool.

To make an appointment, login in to MyAtriumHealth, find a new doctor online or call. (don’t feel like going into the doctor? You can even schedule a video visit with your primary care provider!).

When to Use Virtual Care

Even with an ongoing pandemic, great care is often just a phone call away. Telemedicine use has become a widespread, trusted source for help when families need guidance without a visit to the doctor’s office. 

Virtual care is a good option for non-life threatening symptoms.

Some symptoms and scenarios that virtual care can be used for:

  • Mild cold symptoms such as a cough, slight fever, runny nose, or sore throat
  • Mild vomiting or diarrhea
  • Skin issues such as mild rashes (unless accompanied by fever) or itchiness
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Pink eye
  • Urinary tract infection

Video visits are available 24/7 with no appointment necessary. You will need internet access and a smartphone, tablet, or computer to chat with a physician or medical professional from the comfort of your home – or wherever you may be. eVisits are another virtual care option available that allow you to have a consultation via email with a nurse who can provide you a care plan and prescribe medicine if needed.

Whether you are new to Atrium Health or an existing patient, our virtual care options are easy to access. Start a visit now by checking out our “Get Care Now” options.

When to Go to an Urgent Care

Did you know your local Urgent Care can help with simple stitches, minor burns, and even minor bone breaks?  Similar to primary care, you’ll want to visit an urgent care facility if you’re experiencing an illness or injury that doesn’t put your life in danger, but the care you need is more immediate. Perhaps you suspect your cold symptoms are turning into a sinus infection, or you have a mild cut on your hand that needs to be cleaned and assessed for stitches. These are both non-life-threatening situations that would warrant a trip to urgent care.

You should visit urgent care if you have:

  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Minor wounds, abrasions, burns, or cuts that may require stitches
  • Sprains or strains
  • Ongoing vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fever without a rash
  • Ear pain
  • Eye redness, itchiness or discharge
  • Abdominal pain 

Another bonus of urgent care is it does not require an appointment. You can walk in for care when it fits your schedule thanks to convenient extended hours every day of the week. For the best experience, reserve your spot online beforehand to reduce your waiting time.

When to Go to the Emergency Department 

For serious illness or injury that may put your life in danger, seek help at the nearest emergency department. Medical staff in emergency departments are available 24/7, ready to address patients for a number of critical conditions. 

You should visit an emergency department if you experience:

  • Serious cuts, burns, or wounds
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or numbness throughout the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Seizures

Important note: Call 911 for medical emergencies in which you need transportation for immediate care. Authorities will dispatch an ambulance to pick you up and take you to the nearest hospital. 

View our care guide to browse a list of symptoms to find the care that fits your needs.

A Note on COVID-19

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste and/or smell. If you’re concerned you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have the above symptoms, call your primary care provider for guidance or visit online to explore care options. 

If you are not established with a doctor, call 704-468-8888.

If your symptoms are life-threatening, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.