Your Guide for Knowing Where to Go for the Right Type of Care

Curious about what type of care is best for your symptoms? In this guide to care options, learn whether your sickness or injury can be handled by your doctor, video visit or warrants a trip to the emergency room.

It’s 2 a.m. and you’re miserable: fever, aching joints and stuffed up nose. It doesn’t feel like an emergency, but the thought of waiting it out until the morning sounds miserable. What do you do? If you’ve ever wondered where to go when you’re feeling sick or injured, you’re not alone. Nearly 130 million people head to the emergency room each year, but a large percentage of those visits are not actual emergencies.

While we are fortunate to have several accessible options for care available, how do you know where to go—and when? Here, we’ll dive into the types of care available and where you should go depending on your symptoms.

When to Use Virtual Care

There are several different virtual care options with trusted Atrium Health providers.

Virtual care is a good option for non-life threatening symptoms.

Some symptoms and scenarios that virtual care can be used for:

  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Mild vomiting or diarrhea
  • Skin issues such as mild rashes (unless accompanied by fever) or itchiness
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Pink eye
  • Urinary tract infection

Video visits are available 24/7 with no appointment necessary. You will need internet access and a smartphone, tablet, or computer to chat with a physician or medical professional from the comfort of your home – or wherever you may be.

eVisits are another virtual care option available that allow you to have a consultation via email with a provider who can provide a care plan and prescribe medicine if needed.

To access eVisits:

  • Log in to
  • Select Symptom Checker from the menu
  • Answer a few questions about your symptoms

We'll help determine if an eVisit - or another option - is right for you.

Whether you are new to Atrium Health or an existing patient, our virtual care options are easy to access. Start a visit now by checking out our “Find Care” options.

When to visit your primary care provider

A primary care provider is your first line of defense – whether you are sick or well. Think of primary care provider as your friend and advocate. He or she knows your family’s medical history and can offer health insight that other types of care may take longer to provide.

You should visit your primary care doctor, for:

  • Moderate illnesses and non-life threatening symptoms
  • Basic, yearly check-ups, vaccinations, and health screenings
  • Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

You can easily schedule an appointment online, and even if your primary care office is busy, you can be seen for sick care at any Atrium Health internal medicine or family medicine location. Find a sick visit appointment by logging into MyAtriumHealth.

If you haven’t seen an Atrium Health primary care provider before, find a new doctor easily with our online booking tool.

When to Go to an Urgent Care

Did you know your local Urgent Care can help with moderate flu-like symptoms, simple stitches, minor burns, and even minor bone breaks? Similar to primary care, you’ll want to visit an urgent care facility if you’re experiencing an illness or injury that doesn’t put your life in danger, but the care you need is more immediate. Perhaps you suspect your cold symptoms are turning into a sinus infection, or you have a mild cut on your hand that needs to be cleaned and assessed for stitches. These are both non-life-threatening situations that would warrant a trip to urgent care.

You should visit urgent care if you have:

  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Minor wounds, abrasions, burns, or cuts that may require stitches
  • Sprains or strains
  • Ongoing vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fever without a rash
  • Ear pain
  • Eye redness, itchiness or discharge
  • Abdominal pain

Another bonus of urgent care is it does not require an appointment. You can walk in for care when it fits your schedule thanks to convenient extended hours every day of the week. For the best experience, reserve your spot online beforehand to reduce your waiting time.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

For serious illness or injury that may put your life in danger, seek help at the nearest emergency department. Medical staff in emergency rooms are available 24/7, ready to address patients for several critical conditions.

You should visit an emergency room if you experience:

  • Serious cuts, burns, or wounds
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms like confusion or severe or persistent vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or numbness throughout the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Seizures

Important note: Call 911 for medical emergencies in which you need transportation for immediate care. Authorities will dispatch an ambulance to pick you up and take you to the nearest hospital.

A Note on Respiratory Symptoms

Common symptoms of respiratory illness include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. However, most respiratory illnesses like cold, flu and COVID-19 can be treated at home. We recommend staying home unless seeking medical care, washing hands and staying hydrated. If you have to go out, we recommend wearing a mask.

During winter months especially, flu and COVID-19 testing can be very limited. During these times, we recommend:

  1. Using at home testing options for COVID-19 and flu.
  2. Caring for yourself at home is your best option if you are otherwise healthy.
  3. Testing and medical care may be needed if you have one of the following risk factors:
    1. Risk factors like chronic illness
    2. Over the age of 65
    3. Close contact with someone who is at risk of complications
    4. Under the age of 4
    5. Pregnant

If your symptoms are life-threatening, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.