Walk in clinics tend to treat basic illnesses such as the common cold or urinary tract infections and focus more on preventative care. In contrast, urgent care centers are often equipped to treat more severe problems that require tests or specialized equipment not typically found in a  walk in clinic.

When you or your family are feeling under the weather, it’s essential to know your medical care options.

Let’s break down the differences between a walk in clinic and an urgent care center to help you decide which option is best for you:

What is a walk in clinic?

A walk in clinic is a medical facility that offers same-day access to non-emergency care. Walk in clinics provide basic medical services, including:

  • Minor wound care
  • Suture removal
  • Vaccinations
  • Physical examinations
  • STD testing
  • Testing for infections like strep throat
  • Seasonal allergies and other breathing issues. Some walk in clinics also provide sports or general physicals
  • Wellness checks for adults and children alike
  • Common conditions like the flu

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can diagnose and prescribe medication for common illnesses like colds and cases of flu typically staff walk in clinics.

What is urgent care? 

An urgent care center is a walk in medical facility that provides immediate attention to more severe injuries or illnesses than those typically seen in a walk in clinic, including:

  • Sprains
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations and deep cuts
  • Burns
  • Severe headaches or abdominal pain
  • Ear infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma attacks.

Urgent care centers usually include expert staff like physicians who specialize in emergency medicine and can treat more severe conditions than those seen in traditional walk in clinics.

Choosing between a walk in clinic and urgent care 

The severity of your symptoms or condition will determine whether you should go to a walk in clinic or an urgent care center.

A walk in clinic may be the best option if you have minor symptoms such as congestion or a sore throat that you can treat with over-the-counter medications.

However, if your condition is more serious, like an infection or a sprain, it’s important to seek an urgent care center as soon as possible.

When walk in clinics and urgent care aren’t options

If you experience signs of a life-threatening medical condition such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe bleeding, or stroke symptoms, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room. These symptoms may be too severe for the capabilities of either a walk in clinic or an urgent care center.

It’s also important to note that neither facility generally provides specialized treatments like chemotherapy. So, if you require specialty care, you should contact your primary doctor first instead of visiting either type of facility.

Final thoughts

Knowing where to go for healthcare can be confusing but understanding the difference between walk in clinics and urgent care can help make things easier next time illness strikes.

Both types of facilities offer different benefits depending on what condition you need to treat. Remember to always consider the severity of your symptoms before deciding where to seek treatment.

With this knowledge in mind, choosing between the two shouldn’t be overwhelming the next time you need medical attention.

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