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What is Urgent Care?

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What is Urgent Care?

writtenByWritten by: Sofie Wise
Sofie Wise

Sofie Wise

Sofie hopes to create a more sustainable healthcare system by empowering people to make conscious health decisions. Her interests include cooking, reading, being outdoors and painting.

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February 5, 2021 Read Time - 9 minutes

Urgent care treatment is for non-emergency medical issues that need timely care. You can go to urgent care visits without an appointment, and most treatment centers have extended hours so that you can get the care you need as quickly as possible.

Urgent care centers are meant to provide easy access to quality healthcare. The purpose of urgent care is to fill the gap between the emergency room and going to your primary care physician.

Continue reading to learn more about the medical conditions that urgent care can treat, as well as how online urgent care works.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


What Does Urgent Care Treat?

Urgent care can treat any acute illness or injury. An acute condition is something that requires medical attention but isn’t necessarily severe enough for a trip to the emergency room.

While acute conditions could also be handled by your primary care physician, getting an appointment can take weeks or even months. This is why urgent care is a great alternative to receiving the care you need in a timely manner.

Examples of conditions that urgent care can treat include:

  • Strep Throat
  • Ear Infections
  • Sprains or Minor Broken Bones
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Cold Symptoms
  • Flu Symptoms
  • Upset Stomach

Strep Throat

Strep throat, medically known as streptococcal pharyngitis, refers to an inflammation of the throat caused by a bacterial infection. The infection leads to swelling in your tonsils and in the mucus membranes that line the back of your throat, causing an itchy, sore, and swollen sensation in the throat.

The primary symptoms of strep throat is a sore and itchy throat. Your tonsils on the back of your throat may look red and swollen and have patches of white. This sore throat often comes on suddenly and can be accompanied by painful swallowing.

Urgent care centers are able to test for strep throat using a throat swab and provide immediate treatment with antibiotics for strep throat.

Ear Infections

An “ear infection” is the common term for the condition known as acute otitis media (AOM). AOM occurs when a bacteria or virus causes an infection in the space behind the eardrum. This space, known as the middle ear, is air-filled and contains the tiny bones that vibrate to transmit sound. If an infection causes this space to fill with fluid, it can lead to increased pressure and cause significant discomfort.

Urgent care physicians are well equipped to examine your ears and prescribe the appropriate medication you need to get yourself healthy. This may include a combination of antibiotics and steroids, depending on the severity of the infection.

Sprains or Minor Broken Bones

Sprains or minor fractures are perfectly appropriate for your local urgent care. Typically, urgent care centers are equipped with x-ray machines and technicians so that their doctors can properly assess your injury. If you’re experiencing any major pain in your joints or bones (particularly from an accident or fall), give your local urgent care a call and see if they can provide an assessment and treatment plan for you.

Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection or “UTI” occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract. Typically, this happens when bacteria found in the colon enter through the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. Most urinary tract infections occur in the bladder and are not serious if treated early. Sometimes, without prompt treatment, a bladder infection can spread to the kidneys and cause a more serious type of infection that rarely can cause permanent damage.

Symptoms of urinary tract infection are usually burning with urination, increased frequency of urination, the feeling of incomplete bladder emptying or bladder pressure. Your urine may appear to be cloudy or pinkish and may have a foul odor. Symptoms such as high fever, back pain, and nausea/vomiting can indicate that the infection has spread beyond the bladder and should prompt immediate evaluation by your doctor.

Diagnosis of a urinary tract infection is typically based on the medical history obtained by your doctor. Your doctor may also order a urine test and/or urine culture to help aid in the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, a urinary tract infection is typically treated with a course of antibiotics. In addition, your doctor will likely advise you to drinking plenty of fluids to help flush out the bladder.

Urgent care doctors are well-equipped to perform the necessary testing and appropriately diagnose a UTI.

Cold Symptoms

The common cold is a group of symptoms that is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. There are many different viruses that can infect the upper respiratory tract and cause the common cold. As a result, symptoms will often vary slightly from cold to cold.

Some typical common cold symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Low-Grade Temperature

Common cold symptoms start 2-3 days after exposure to a cold virus and can last for 7-10 days.

Diagnosis is based on a careful medical history obtained by your doctor. There is no specific treatment or cure for the common cold. Treatments are given to help provide symptomatic relief. Some examples of symptomatic treatments include pain relievers (Tylenol, ibuprofen), decongestant medications, and cough suppressants.

Urgent care doctors can effectively diagnose your common cold and provide a treatment plan to get you feeling healthy and happy as soon as possible.

Flu Symptoms

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a series of different viruses. These viruses can infect your lungs, nose, and throat. Estimates suggest that up to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year.

Some common influenza symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Headaches
  • Aching Muscles
  • General Fatigue

Human influenza viruses are highly contagious. You can potentially infect others one day before you even develop initial symptoms. Most healthy adults will be contagious five to seven days after becoming sick.

Luckily, treatment is available if you catch the symptoms early enough. If you think you may have the flu, going to an urgent care center is a quick and effective option to stopping the spread of illness in your body. There, you can get the anti-viral medication Tamiflu and take any other appropriate measure to keep yourself healthy.

Upset Stomach

Gastritis is a condition in which the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed. Gastritis can lead to abdominal discomfort and pain. Gastritis can occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or it can persist over time (chronic gastritis). Several different conditions can lead to the development of stomach inflammation and gastritis.

If you are experiencing stomach pain, abdominal discomfort, vomiting or diarrhea, urgent care is a good option for treatment. The doctor will speak with you about your medical history, diagnose appropriately, and provide a treatment plan.

When to Go to Urgent Care

You should go to urgent care for non-emergency medical treatment. Urgent care is meant for conditions such as the cold, flu, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections.

Otherwise, you should to go the emergency room (ER) for life-threatening medical emergencies. Conditions that require ER treatment include serious injuries, chest pains, stroke symptoms, severe burns, and major broken bones.

How Much Does Urgent Care Cost?

Urgent care costs vary based on whether you have insurance, the specific condition being treated, and whether the urgent care clinic is in-network or out-of-network. Typically, the average cost of an urgent care visit is $150. Urgent care treatment costs significantly less than going to the emergency room.

Your insurance company will usually cover urgent care visits if the urgent care center is in your network. The amount you will pay after your insurance will depend on your plan’s co-pay and/or deductible. The price you pay for urgent care treatment will likely be higher if you do not have health insurance.

At PlushCare, the average cost of an online urgent care appointment is $22 for insured patients, and $119 for uninsured patients.

Can Urgent Care Prescribe Antibiotics?

Yes, urgent care can prescribe antibiotics, as well as other necessary medications such as antivirals.

At PlushCare, our online urgent care doctors can prescribe antibiotics, as well as prescriptions for other non-controlled substances required for the treatment of your urgent care needs.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


How Does Online Urgent Care Work?

Online urgent care is a visit with a physician through your phone, computer or tablet, where they provide a diagnosis and prescribe any necessary medications and non-controlled substances.

Online urgent care physicians at PlushCare are able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for all of the above conditions, and more. Here at PlushCare, all of our online physicians are graduates of the top 50 U.S. medical schools, so you can rest assured knowing that you will receive world-class treatment for your urgent care needs.

PlushCare makes virtual urgent care easy, affordable, and accessible. Here’s how an online urgent care visit works with PlushCare:

  • Start by booking an appointment online through your smartphone or computer. We make choosing doctors who are in your network seamless. You can also easily book an appointment if you don’t have insurance.
  • Next, during your online urgent care appointment, your physician will determine a diagnosis based on your current condition and a review of your medical history.
  • Your doctor will provide you with a treatment plan, as well as a prescription for non-controlled substances and medications (if needed), which will be sent to a local pharmacy of your choice.

If you are experiencing symptoms and think you might need an urgent care appointment, book online for an online urgent care visit. PlushCare has all of the benefits of urgent care with none of the hassle. We are proud to provide convenient, affordable, and high-quality care to our patients.

Read More About Urgent Care


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American College of Emergency Physicians. Urgent Care Centers. Accessed on February 5, 2021. Emergency vs. Urgent Care: What’s the difference? Accessed on February 5, 2021. Urgent care centers in the U.S.: Findings from a national survey. Accessed on February 5, 2021.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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