Your trusty first-aid kit will only get you so far during a medical emergency. Sometimes, your symptoms warrant an immediate visit to the nearest ER, a same-day trip to your local urgent-care clinic, or an appointment with your doctor in the next few days. 

Here’s how to determine your destination when these six common ailments strike.  

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1. Cut

A run-of-the-mill scrape requires little more than a clean scrub, some ointment, and a Band-Aid. But if the cut won’t stay closed, you should seek medical treatment to avoid blood loss and infection. 

Head to the ER if:

It’s located in sensitive areas

Go to urgent care if:

It’s a bleede

It’s longer than of an inch or deeper than of an inch

Wait to see your doctor if:

It looks like it has become infected

2. Headache

The majority of headaches aren’t life-threatening, but there isn’t much middle ground between benign and deadly kinds, Dr. Arend says. 

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Head to the ER if:

It’s the worst headache of your life

It comes with a fever or stiff neck

You’re weak or numb on one side of your body

Go to urgent care if:

You suffered a blow to the head

Wait to see your doctor if:

Your headache persists

3. Fever

Take your temperature. If you exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and you show some of the severe symptoms listed below, head to the ER. If your temp is as high as 103 but you don’t have any of these issues, give your doc a call. 

Head to the ER if:

You experience red-flag symptoms

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You recently traveled to West Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East

You were recently hospitalized

Go to urgent care if:

You’re also coughing and sneezing

Wait to see your doctor if:

You have an immune system deficiency. Fevers can be a sign of more dangerous diseases if you have cancer or HIV, or if you take meds that suppress your immune system, like for certain types of arthritis.

Your fever persists for more than a week. “If you also experience congestion or sinus pressure, you could have a sinus infection and may require antibiotics,” Dr. Arend says. 

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