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When to Go to the ER

When to Go to the ER

When you or your loved one is sick, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which healthcare provider to see. Should you go to your primary care physician? Or to an urgent care facility or emergency room? And what about the coronavirus? Is it safer just to stay home and wait to get care later?




El Camino Health provides guidelines that can direct you to the right place for care – at the right time.

Primary Care, Urgent Care or ER

Primary Care

Your own primary care provider knows you best. They know your current conditions, your past medical history and your medications, and they can advise you about any tests or treatments you may need. Your primary care provider can also help you prevent problems before they start. If you have time to make and wait for an appointment, your primary care provider is your best choice.

Urgent Care

Urgent care is appropriate when your doctor’s office is closed or you don’t want to wait for an appointment with your primary care provider because your symptoms need to be addressed quickly. Urgent care offers walk-in service – no appointment necessary.

Some centers like El Camino Health’s Urgent Care in Cupertino, Mountain View and on First Street in San Jose allow individuals to schedule a specific appointment time and offer virtual visits through an app. It is the more cost-effective choice compared to going to the emergency room.

Urgent care is best for conditions such as:

  • Fever, flu or cold symptoms
  • Ear infections
  • Animal or insect bites
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Sprains or broken bones
  • Cuts or bleeding that require stitches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Moderate asthma or breathing discomfort
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Moderate abdominal pain
  • Minor neck pain

El Camino Health’s Urgent Care facilities are open seven days each week with set hours. If your condition is more serious, these facilities will send you to the emergency room for a more detailed examination.

Emergency Room

If you have a severe or life-threatening condition, go directly to the emergency room. El Camino Health hospitals have emergency rooms in Los Gatos and Mountain View.

These facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are staffed with experts at all types of emergencies. These include heart attacks, strokes, traumatic injuries and other complex health conditions.

Go to the emergency room if you have symptoms such as:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Paralysis
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • High fever (over 102) or rash, especially in children
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Poisoning
  • Severe head or eye injuries
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unconsciousness

In some cases, such as loss of consciousness or difficulty breathing, you should call 911 for an ambulance.

Don’t Hesitate to Get the Care You Need

Since the coronavirus became an issue in our country, some people are hesitant to seek care in a medical facility because they fear coming in contact with the disease. However, delaying care when you need it can be a dangerous choice.

If your symptoms are serious enough for you to go the emergency room, go right away. Some conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke, can cause irreversible damage if they are not treated quickly. You also may need more treatments if you delay.

This is also true for people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or lung conditions. These conditions require vigilant monitoring and timely medical care to manage and prevent them from becoming worse or even life-threatening.

Safety at El Camino Health

El Camino Health puts your safety first, all the time. If you have an illness, injury or chronic condition that requires emergency treatment, you can rest assured that your visit will be safe. All facilities at El Camino Health adhere to stringent guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CSC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) and the American College of Surgeons. 

We use the following protocols:

  • Screeners triage patients who show symptoms of having an infectious disease before they enter the emergency room.
  • Patients who have respiratory or infectious symptoms are evaluated in a separate and dedicated assessment area.
  • All staff and doctors are screened daily for symptoms and for elevated temperature.
  • Social distancing and mandatory masking are in place.
  • Waiting rooms and high-traffic areas are sanitized daily.
  • Exam rooms are thoroughly disinfected before and after each patient use.
  • If you are admitted to the hospital, you can be assured that your room will be meticulously cleaned and sanitized before you enter.
  • Every patient who is admitted to the hospital will have a private room.

Learn more about how we keep you safe at El Camino Health.