GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– Anything from an upset stomach to an accidental injury, Knowing where to go, when you need medical attention, is critical.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours Saint Francis, we’re breaking down what you need to know to make the best decision for your care.

When you are in pain or experiencing a traumatic injury, the last thing on your mind is geography, you likely just want help, quickly, from the closest facility.

But if you show up at the wrong place, you may delay getting the care you need.

Chief clinical officer at Bon Secours Saint Francis, Dr. Bruce Swords, says the emergency room is the place to go for significant trauma or a broken bone. Also, for symptoms that you can’t quite identify.

“Severe chest pain, seek help. If you think you might be having a stroke, go seek help. There are some other indications, if you’ve got severe limb pain that you can’t explain… Go get help.”

Dr. Bruce Swords, Bon Secours St. Francis

It doesn’t have to be an ER attached to a hospital…

“If you need emergency care, go to the closest emergency department. Those emergency departments, whether freestanding, or attached to a hospital, will be quite sophisticated with trained doctors, staff, and access to advanced imaging laboratories. So, just go to the closest emergency department,” said Dr. Swords.

Doctor Swords says there are times you can avoid an ER bill by visiting your primary care doctor.

Like when you have a cough or a cold.

“If these are relatively minor symptoms, that have been going on for a few days, it’s great time to go see your primary care physician,” said Dr. Swords.

If your primary care physician isn’t available or the office isn’t open, go to an urgent care center.

“An urgent care center is great to see physicians or nurse practitioners, after hours. Sore throats, coughs, colds, minor emergencies, that might need a stitch or suture, or a minor event that requires an x-ray.”

Dr. Bruce Swords, Bon Secours St. Francis

If you have established care with a physician, patients can sometimes use virtual visits for medical attention. Dr. Swords says virtual care is an effective setting for acute symptoms, like urinary tract infections, minor coughs, or continuing care.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.