Not Feeling Well? How to Know Where to Go

By Helen Manalis, DO, Primary Care Physician, Virtua Primary Care—Westmont

Is it bad mayo or appendicitis? A chest cold or coronavirus? Heartburn or a heart attack? You need medical attention, but where should you go?

Choosing the right place for care depends on the severity of your symptoms. If they’re life-threatening, you need to call 911 or get to a hospital emergency room right away. Most times, though, you don’t need the high level of care an ER provides. If you go there with a minor illness or injury, you’ll end up waiting for hours and have a larger bill.

So where should you go for the right care? Here are some tips so you choose your care with confidence.

Primary care for prevention, wellness, and illness

Your primary care provider knows you best, and is usually the best person to call first for care.

Your primary care provider keeps you healthy with regular checkups, immunizations, and the management of chronic conditions like high blood pressure. They also treat colds and flu, sinus infections, back pain, and other sudden illnesses and injuries.

Your primary provider will prescribe medications, order blood work or X-rays, and refer to you to a specialist, like a cardiologist, if needed.

Primary care appointments are offered in person, and often by telehealth video visit from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Urgent care for life’s little emergencies

Urgent care is for minor illnesses and injuries when you don’t want to wait for an appointment, or on nights, weekends, and holidays when your doctor’s office is closed. It’s a convenient choice for conditions like colds, the flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections (UTIs), earaches, pink eye, stomach viruses, aches, sprains, strains, coronavirus consults, and more.

Urgent care is available in person or via telehealth. Choose walk-in urgent care if you need stitches for a cut or X-rays for a minor injury. Urgent care is not the right choice for any life-threatening condition, like chest pain.

Hospital emergency room for serious illness or injury

For life-threatening symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call 911 for life-saving care. The same goes for chest pain, severe injury, heavy bleeding, stroke symptoms, loss of consciousness, broken bones, or severe abdominal pain. With advanced treatments and specialists on site, hospital emergency rooms are the most expensive option for care, but absolutely necessary when your life is on the line.

Whether your symptoms are minor or severe, it’s important not to delay care. Getting the right care in the right place when you need it ensures that you’ll feel better faster and save time and money in the process.  

Care when and how you need it

Whether you need care for a sinus infection, a sprained ankle, or something more serious, we’re here for you.

See your wide range of options (made simple), and make an appointment online that works for your schedule


Updated October 4, 2021

navigator access center

Contact Virtua

A Personal Health Navigator can help you find a doctor, schedule appointments or classes, and help you find a service or location.

888-VIRTUA-3 Live Chat

You may also like

young Asian woman smiling at date

5 Tips on How to Look at the Bright Side of Life

There's good reason to look in the bright side! Studies have shown that optimism can reduce pain and improve your quality of life. Here are five tips to help you feel more positive.

Read More
family with pale skin swimming in pool

Spot Skin Cancer with an Annual Exam

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and we’ll be exposing our skin to the sun’s rays. But before heading to the beach or pool, it’s a good idea to get a skin exam.

Read More
young woman with skeptical expression

Fact or Fiction: The Truth Behind 7 Old Wives' Tales

Will you get sick if you go outside with wet hair? Learn what’s true, and what’s not, from old wives' tales about health superstitions and being sick. Your mom may have been misinformed.

Read More
Showing 3 of 101