Sometimes it’s hard to decide if you should go to the emergency room (ER) or see your primary care physician (PCP) when you have a certain injury or illness. If you find yourself wondering where to go, consider the following:

  • ER visits are usually only for a medical emergency, such as when you have symptoms that require immediate attention to prevent loss of limb or loss of function, including in extremities or with vision or consciousness.
  • You should see your PCP for almost all other issues.

Still unsure? Call your PCP!

Your PCP’s office will point you in the right direction. And if you do go to the ER, let your PCP know so he or she can coordinate your care.

Below are some common health issues and where you should go to have them addressed.

Issue PCP ER
Back Pain (no fever or other symptoms)  
Prescription refill requests  
Bumps, cuts and scrapes  
Cough or sore throat  
High fever – over 101  
Severe shortness of breath  
Possible broken bones  


Often when we’re sick or in pain, we want to be seen right away.

But going to the ER doesn’t always mean getting immediate care—ER wait times can be a few hours. If your PCP can’t see you right away, there’s always the option of seeing a physician in an urgent care center.

Your PCP knows your medical history, has your medical records on hand and is invested in your long-term health—all of which help your PCP treat most of your health needs.

So stop and think about where’s the best place to go for care. Chances are your PCP’s office is the right choice.