Dr. Randall Castor

You’re carving your Thanksgiving turkey and inadvertently slice your finger. Or maybe you slip off the ladder putting up decorations in your yard.

It wasn’t so long ago that the emergency room was your only choice if your primary care physician wasn’t available. Today, you may be able to get less expensive and more convenient treatment, depending on your medical condition. Options for immediate care range from virtual visits in your home to neighborhood urgent care clinics. 

To help you decide where you should seek care, here’s a rundown of the conditions that can be treated with each level of health care service.

Virtual visits: Online medical services, like Beaufort Memorial’s BMH Care Anywhere, offer “face time” with a primary care provider for minor medical issues like a cough, cold, flu, rash, minor burn, pinkeye, sinus infection, sore throat and urinary tract infection. Telehealth providers are able to prescribe appropriate medications and the service can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere. 

Walk-in care: Sometimes called urgent care or immediate care, most walk-in clinics offer same-day treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, including lacerations, ear pain, bronchitis, asthma or COPD flare ups, urinary tract infections and vomiting. Many of these facilities are also able to take X-rays.

Emergency Room: Call 911 immediately if it’s a life-threatening emergency. For a broken bone, serious injury, severe burn, abdominal pain or a condition requiring an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound, you’ll also need to go to the ER. If it’s a non-life-threatening condition, many ERs now allow you to schedule an appointment online and skip the waiting room. 

A couple of caveats: 

When a person is having a stroke, every second counts, so action needs to be taken immediately. The American Stroke Association suggests using the F.A.S.T. warning signs to determine if emergency services should be called: 

Face drooping

Arm weakness

Slurred speech

Time to call 911

In addition, chest pain is something that should not be ignored, as it can be complicated to diagnose and needs to be evaluated promptly. Most immediate care/walk-in care clinics are equipped to perform an EKG, but it’s more likely that your attending physician may refer you to the ER for further testing. 

If you have risk factors for cardiac disease or you experience pain in your jaw or arm, shortness of breath, sweating or nausea, call 911 immediately. 

And finally, you should also call 911 if you:

Can’t stop a wound from bleeding

Are vomiting blood

Have rectal bleeding or bloody diarrhea with fever

Experience the sudden onset of a severe headache

Fall and hit your head

Have an allergic reaction that causes difficulty breathing or swelling in your tongue or lips

While the holidays can be a joyous time, they also offer the potential for accidents, injuries and illness. Whether it’s a cut, sprain, food poisoning or the flu, getting medical treatment doesn’t have to ruin your fun. With today’s expanded health care options, help is just around the corner.

Dr. Randall Castor is a board-certified Family Medicine specialist at Beaufort Memorial Express Care and Occupational Health in Bluffton, Okatie and Beaufort.