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Urgent Care or ER? Know Where to Go

By Donna Padgett, ACNP, at Lexington Medical Center

Should I Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Unfortunately, you can’t schedule illnesses and injuries. It is important to seek appropriate and timely care if you feel sick or become injured. But where do you go if your primary care doctor is not available or you don’t have a doctor? While the answer is not always simple, understanding the difference between urgent care and emergency care, and knowing where to seek treatment can save you time, money and, most importantly, your life in an emergency.

The terms “emergency” and “urgent care” imply a medical need that requires quick attention; however, there are distinct differences between hospital emergency rooms and traditional urgent care centers, specifically the level of care provided at each facility.

Urgent care centers are same-day clinics where providers see patients with medical problems that need to be treated right away; however, these problems are not considered true emergencies. Urgent care centers address issues typically handled by your primary doctor. Common conditions treated at urgent care include coughs, sore throat, earache, painful urination, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, injuries (cuts and sprains), etc. Most urgent care centers are open after normal business hours, including nights, weekends and holidays. They are staffed by physicians and nurse practitioners, and offer lab work, X-rays and other diagnostic testing. In most situations, patients will save time and money by going to an urgent care center instead of an emergency room.

An emergency room is the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions. Unlike urgent care centers, they are equipped and staffed for the most complex and critical needs, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, weakness or pain in a leg or arm, severe headache, head injuries, eye injuries, seizures, deep wounds, broken bones, serious burns, etc. Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because emergency rooms offer the widest range of services, including diagnostic tests and access to specialists, the care is more expensive. Also, patients can expect longer wait times in an emergency room, especially if they go for a non-emergent problem.

Everyone should know where to find their closest emergency room and urgent care center. Lexington Medical Center has five urgent care centers located in Batesburg- Leesville, Chapin, Irmo, Lexington and Swansea. The Lexington and Irmo urgent care centers have CT scan and MRI capability, in addition to X-ray and laboratory services.

Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department is located at its main campus in West Columbia, near the I-26 and Highway 378 interchange.

Make It Your Business to Fight the Flu

By Stacey Gallaway, MD, MPH, of Occupational Health, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the flu costs the United States more than $87 billion annually, and it is responsible for the loss of nearly 17 million workdays each flu season. Tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands die from flu-related illnesses in the United States each year. Infectious disease experts agree that annual influenza vaccination is the best protection against the flu.

Box of tissues and medicine on a wood table (the background is cream pattern wallpaper).

Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every year, usually between October and May. Flu is caused by influenza viruses and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing and being in close contact with others. Anyone can get the flu. It strikes suddenly, and symptoms can be severe, including fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny nose.

Influenza infection is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk for hospitalization and death due to the infection. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. It’s especially important for people at high risk for serious complications, such as those with asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Although the flu is more dangerous for individuals with certain medical conditions, healthy people can become very ill or die from contracting the flu.

There are many different influenza viruses, and they are always changing. Each year, a new flu vaccine is made to protect against the viruses most likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Predicting which viruses will be important in the upcoming flu season is not an exact science. Even when the vaccine is not a perfect match to circulating virus strains, it may still afford some protection against infection or reduce the severity of an infection.

Flu vaccines are manufactured to protect against three or four viruses: H1N1; H3N2; and one or two influenza B viruses. The flu vaccine cannot provide complete protection from an influenza infection caused by a virus not included in the vaccine, and it does not protect against other viral illnesses that have influenza- like symptoms.

This season’s three-component vaccines will contain:
• an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
• an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus.
• a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus.
Four-component vaccines will also contain a B/ Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.

Stacey Gallaway, MD, MPH

Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons older than 6 months of age. Special emphasis should be placed on vaccination of high-risk groups and their household contacts and caregivers:
• Children age 6 months to 5 years
• Adults 50 years of age and older
• Persons with chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease
• Persons who have a weakened immune system
• Pregnant women
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• Persons who are extremely obese (body mass index greater than or equal to 40)
• Health care workers
• Caregivers and household contacts of those at high risk

There is no live flu virus in the vaccination, so flu shots cannot cause the flu. This misconception is common because some people may have a sore arm and a low-grade fever or achiness after getting a flu shot. All these side effects are mild, short- lived and easily alleviated with simple measures, such as a cool compress on the arm or an over-the-counter pain reliever. Symptoms related to vaccination side effects are minor compared to the symptoms of an influenza infection.

Employers can play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety while increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism, lowering health care costs and limiting other negative effects of the flu. Make it your business to fight the flu.

Pregnancy Mythbusters

From flying on airplanes to drinking caffeine, moms-to-be have a lot of questions about what might be off limits during pregnancy. In this WLTX interview, Dr. Andrea Garrick, OB-GYN at Lexington Women’s Care, separates the prenatal fact from fiction.


Dr. Garrick is accepting new patients. Visit LexingtonWomensCare.com or call (803) 936 – 8100 for an appointment.