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Food Poisoning Treatment: ER or Urgent Care?

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Food Poisoning Treatment: ER or Urgent Care?

About one in six people get sick from a foodborne illness every year. It's not a rare occurrence, but it's not exactly easy when it happens to you. The good news is that most instances of food poisoning are relatively mild and will go away without medication. But sometimes, people end up in hospitals with more severe cases. So, if you're feeling sick after eating something, getting medical help will be just what you need. But should you go to an emergency room or an urgent care center?

Confirming the Diagnosis

Before looking at where you should go, let's learn more about food poisoning and how it's diagnosed. This happens when you consume food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or toxins. The symptoms can vary, depending on the type of contaminant, but they usually include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In most cases, these will go away within a few days. But even the mildest cases of food poisoning can be pretty miserable, so, understandably, you might want to see a doctor.

Visiting Urgent Care for Food Poisoning

An urgent care center may be for you if your symptoms are mild. Urgent care centers can diagnose and treat various conditions, including food poisoning. They also tend to have shorter wait times than emergency rooms.

If you go to an urgent care center for food poisoning, they will likely start by asking you more about your symptoms. They may also order some lab tests, like a stool sample, to confirm the diagnosis. Once they've confirmed that you have food poisoning, they'll treat your symptoms and send you on your way.

In most cases, the treatment for food poisoning is pretty simple. You'll probably need to drink lots of fluids and rest until you feel better. If you have diarrhea and persistent vomiting, you may also need to be hospitalized to receive IV fluids. But this is usually only necessary in rare cases.

Visiting the Emergency Room for Food Poisoning

If your food poisoning symptoms are more severe or you have a pre-existing medical condition that puts you at risk for complications, the emergency room may be a better option. The ER can provide more intensive care than an urgent care center. Plus, they're equipped to deal with more severe cases of food poisoning.

Severe symptoms that may require a trip to the ER include:

  • Blood in your vomit or stool
  • Extreme abdominal pain
  • High fever
  • Severe dehydration

If you observe or experience the symptoms listed above, it's essential to seek medical help immediately.

Making the Decision: ER or Urgent Care?

How do you know whether to go to the emergency room or an urgent care center for food poisoning? An urgent care center is probably a good option if your symptoms are mild and you're generally healthy. But if your symptoms are more serious or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, the ER may be a better choice.

Recover From Food Poisoning

UF Health Emergency & Urgent Care Center

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