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IT'S 2 A.M., AND YOU wake up with a terrible pain in your lower back. It's 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and you suddenly feel extremely nauseous. It's 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and that cough that's been bothering you for a couple days suddenly seems to take a turn for the worse. What should you do in any and all of these situations? Should you visit the emergency room? Can you get an appointment with your primary care doctor? What about those urgent care centers that are popping up all over the place? Where can you be seen in the most timely manner and get the most appropriate care for whichever health issue you're facing?

It can be a tricky question to answer, especially when you're making it under duress and without the benefit of a medical degree to help guide you. Dr. Douglas Kupas, an emergency physician and EMS physician at Geisinger in Danville, Pennsylvania, says there are several factors you need to take into consideration when choosing where to go for health care in various situations. The most important is "the type of injury or illness that you have, its severity and whether it fits with the resources at the site."

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