Choosing Care Wisely

Getting The Right Healthcare ... At The Right Time ... At The Right Place

Every winter, local emergency departments see an increase in visits for flu-like symptoms. Sometimes, it’s obvious when to go to the ER, but other times, it can be more difficult to tell. Primary care, urgent care, and emergency care all have different abilities, specialties, and purposes.

As always, come to the emergency department if you think you are having a medical emergency. In an emergency setting, top priority is given to anyone affected by a life-threatening illness, trauma, or injury. That’s why for minor illnesses or injuries, urgent care, primary care, or even telemedicine visits are often the best approach for treatment. It will save time, money, and critical resources to truly help someone in need of potentially life-saving emergency care.

Following are tips to help you decide whether you need to head to the emergency room, the nearest urgent care location, or your primary care doctor.

Primary Care

The best way to take control of your health is to develop a relationship with a primary care physician. Primary care providers can help you protect yourself and your family during cold and flu season.

Most primary care physicians leave room in their schedule for “sick” visits from their regular patients. If you have flu-like symptoms or are seeking a COVID test, you should contact your primary care physician. This is especially true for the very young, very old, pregnant women, people with a BMI greater than 40, and people with underlying health conditions like asthma or COPD. If you are a higher-risk individual, it is a good idea to visit a primary care physician if you think you have the flu, RSV, or COVID.

Urgent Care And Virtual Visits

If it’s after hours or your primary care doctor is unavailable, you should visit an urgent care office for non-emergent respiratory illnesses. They generally treat a range of common illnesses and conditions, and it’s a cost-effective alternative to emergency care. For simple health problems, consider a virtual visit, an option that lets you talk with a doctor without leaving home. If it’s determined during your virtual visit that you need to be seen in-person, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or visit an urgent care.

Emergency Care

In a life-threatening situation, always call 911 or go directly to the nearest hospital emergency room.

If your flu-like symptoms are more severe, it may warrant a trip to the emergency department. Examples of severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest or abdominal pain, dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting, and high fevers.

Planning And Prevention

While sickness can’t always be avoided, planning and prevention are the best defenses against illness. Eat well, get plenty of rest, avoid sick people, wash your hands frequently, get your flu and COVID vaccines, and if you’re sick, stay home!

It takes the community to ensure everyone has access to the right care, at the right time, at the right place.

With multiple locations, WakeMed Urgent Care providers treat common illnesses and conditions – seven days a week – for adults and kids ages four months and up. Urgent care is also a cost-effective alternative to emergency care. WakeMed is also home to seven emergency departments across Wake County, including the area’s only dedicated Children’s Emergency Department. For providers, locations, and more information, visit