Sofie Wise

Sofie Wise

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About Author — 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.

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.

What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care centers are meant to provide easy access to quality healthcare. For a long time, hospitals were the main point of care for most people. They were accessible to their surrounding populations and staffed by physicians in their area. If you needed stitches or had a twisted ankle, you could go to your hospital and receive prompt, efficient care.

Healthcare has changed quite a bit over the last couple of decades, though. Hospital emergency rooms are now a bustling hub of illness and injury. Often times you will find your local emergency room understaffed and overflowing with patients. Emergency rooms also prioritize by severity of illness, so if you are experiencing something like a sore throat or pain urinating it may take hours to actually speak with a physician.

Enter: Urgent Care. Urgent cares are meant to fill the gap between the emergency room and going to your primary care physician. They are there for non-emergency issues that need timely care. Getting an appointment with your primary care physician can take weeks or even months, so urgent care centers are a great alternative to receiving the care you need. Urgent cares typically offer visits without an appointment and have extended hours so that you can get the care you need as quickly as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at what an urgent care can do for you.

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What do Urgent Care Centers Treat?

Urgent care centers have a fairly wide range of services. They can treat any acute illness or injury. An acute condition is something that requires attention but isn’t necessarily severe enough for a trip to the emergency room. It is probably something that could also be handled by your primary care physician if they are available, but often primary care appointments must be scheduled weeks (or even months) in advance.

Urgent cares can (but are not limited to) treating any of the following conditions:

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 and causes 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.

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. Generally 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. Generally this happens when bacteria found in the colon enter through the urethra, or 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 and low-grade temperature. Generally symptoms start 2-3 days after exposure to a cold virus and 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, and 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

Gastritisis 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, an 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.

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Online Urgent Care

An online urgent care is exactly what it sounds like: a visit with a physician through your phone, computer or tablet, where they provide a diagnosis and prescribe any necessary medications.

Online urgent care physicians are able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for all of the above conditions, and more. They save you time, stress, and often cost the same amount as going to the doctor in-person. The goal of online physicians is to make medical care as easy and convenient as possible.

Online physicians often practice medicine both in-person and online. They may have a “day job” working at a hospital or smaller practice and choose to spend their evenings or weekends practicing medicine from the comfort of their homes. Telemedicine is great because it gives both patients and physicians the flexibility and convenience of speaking to each other from wherever they may be.

Here at PlushCare, all of our online physicians have attended one of the top 50 medical institutions, so you can rest assured that you will be receiving top-notch, quality care. Our doctors are excited about the opportunity to make medical care more affordable and more accessible!

If you are experiencing symptoms and think you might need an urgent care appointment, book online or give PlushCare a call at 1-800-221-5140 to see if you are a good candidate for an online urgent care visit. PlushCare has all of the benefits of an urgent care with none of the hassle. We are thrilled to be able to provide such convenient, affordable and high quality care to our patients.