What Constitutes a Minor Emergency?

If you have a mild sore throat, you probably know that you don’t need to visit the hospital emergency room. But it’s not always so easy to tell the difference between a minor emergency and one that requires a trip to the ER. 

Understanding what constitutes a minor emergency can help you determine which type of care you need.

As minor emergency specialists, our medical team at Dr. Bridget Bellingar DO & Associates are equipped to diagnose and treat minor emergencies, allowing you to skip a trip to the ER and get the care you need quickly.

In an effort to spread knowledge and help you make informed decisions, we created this guide to help you understand what constitutes a minor emergency.

What is a minor emergency?

The word “minor” can be misleading because a minor emergency is nothing to brush off. It’s simply called “minor” because it can be treated outside of a hospital emergency room. 

Minor emergencies benefit from urgent treatment, although these conditions aren’t life-threatening. But if they are left untreated, you may experience unwanted complications.

Minor emergencies include:

  • Injuries, including sprains, strains, or mild fractures 
  • Mild lacerations or cuts 
  • Headaches
  • Minor infections
  • Prolonged cold and flu symptoms
  • GI upset, including nausea and vomiting
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Rashes and skin lesions

Depending on which minor emergency you experience, your treatment will vary. We can provide sutures, antibiotics, casting, and other medications if needed.

What about stitches?

Cuts and lacerations are a common reason for visiting urgent care and ER settings, but it can be tricky to tell which type of treatment you need. If the laceration bleeds excessively, is very jagged, or is filled with debris, go to the emergency room.

On the other hand, a cut may be deemed a minor emergency if it is less than a quarter inch deep, the bleeding is relatively controlled, and the cut is more or less straight. 

Regardless, it’s important to receive care as soon as possible for cuts to reduce the risk of infection.  

Signs that your injury requires emergency care

Any serious version of the above-listed injuries may require emergency care. When any injury becomes life-threatening or difficult to manage on your own, it’s better to err on the side of caution. 

For example, a severe headache accompanied by vision changes is better suited to ER treatment. A severe asthma attack is also better suited to ER treatment. A cut that won’t stop bleeding (or splurts blood) is a medical emergency.

If you experience a head injury, chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, or vision changes, call 911 or visit the nearest hospital.

When you’re making the decision for someone else

Whether you’re caring for a child or for an elderly parent, you may be put in a situation where you need to take another person in for emergency treatment. It can be stressful to decide if you are dealing with a minor emergency or a major one, but try to take a few deep breaths before acting. 

We’re here to help, and if needed, we can direct you to the appropriate specialists. If you have questions or concerns, call us at 727-217-5648. You can also use our online tool to request an appointment.

Skip to content