Can Urgent Care Prescribe Antibiotics?

Getting your required prescription can take time, and sometimes that waiting period is far too long. If you need immediate medical attention and or a referral, you would need to head to the nearest urgent care center

Your urgent care physician can help to diagnose your condition and decide on what the best treatment would be going forward. You may receive a prescription or a referral.

Table of Contents

What Is Urgent Care?

If you need to receive medical attention quickly, but you’re not in life-threatening danger, an urgent care center is where you should go. Minor injuries or illnesses sometimes cannot wait for an appointment with a primary care physician, and fast treatment can prevent conditioning from worsening. 

Urgent care centers are often walk-in, meaning that you don’t need to make any kind of an appointment, and you can wait until the physician is ready to see you. Depending on how many people are waiting, this can take from just a few minutes to a few hours.

While it may sound similar to emergency care, keep in mind that these are not the same thing. The emergency room, or emergency care centers are for patients who are in life-threatening conditions and need to be seen immediately. Urgent care is more for patients who have minor factors, severe, yet not dangerous discomfort, and other conditions that cannot wait for a doctor’s appointment.

Can Urgent Care Prescribe Antibiotics?

If you’ve got an infection that needs to be treated, the physician at the urgent care center will be able to prescribe antibiotics to you. During your appointment, you’ll be diagnosed, and you’ll receive your prescription by the end of the appointment – where you’ll likely be able to pick it up from a nearby clinic. 

Waiting to see a primary care physician can give your infection time to develop and get worse, leading to a possible medical emergency if you’re not careful.

Are There Any Reasons Why Urgent Care Wouldn’t Prescribe Antibiotics?

Whether or not your urgent care physician will prescribe you your antibiotics will depend on your condition. If after your diagnosis and assessment, your physician decides that you don’t need antibiotics to treat your infection, then you will likely be given advice on how to reduce your symptoms and prevent them from developing. 

Antibiotics should only be taken when the patient really needs them, else if you develop an infection later on – the antibiotics may not be as effective as they can be, and fail to counteract the spread of bacteria.

It’s important that you’re transparent and open with your urgent care physician about your symptoms to make sure you get the best treatment possible. While you may be hoping to receive antibiotics, receiving antibiotics when you don’t need them is more harmful than it is helpful.

What Medication Can’t Urgent Care Prescribe?

Your urgent care physician can’t handle every condition, and there are a number of medications that they’re not qualified to prescribe to patients. If there’s a specific type of medication that you need but your physician can’t prescribe it, they may refer you to the correct healthcare professional to get you that treatment. Here are some of the medications that you will likely not receive from an urgent care physician:

Narcotics. Narcotics won’t be prescribed by an urgent care physician because the patient needs to be closely monitored while under the prescription. A physician that you’re only going to see one time cannot properly monitor the effectiveness for the patient, so you’ll likely have to receive these from your primary care physician instead.

Anxiety medication. Your urgent care physician isn’t qualified to diagnose you with mental illnesses, and that means they cannot prescribe your anxiety, and even sometimes depression medications on the spot. Similar to narcotics, the patient needs to be properly assessed and monitored – something that will not happen in an urgent care center.

Prescription refills. Many patients head to urgent care hoping that they can get a refill on their prescription that was provided by their primary care physician, but this is not possible. Many serious prescriptions require a knowledge of your medical history, and as you’re only going to be seeing your urgent care physician for just one appointment – you won’t be able to get your refill from them.

Get Antibiotics Online!

If your infection requires antibiotics, but you’re unable to reach an urgent care center soon, you should know it’s possible that you can get your antibiotics online. There are telehealth services, just like DrHouse, that allow you to see a physician face-to-face in just a short amount of time. Here you’ll speak with your appointed physician about your condition, and will receive an antibiotics prescription if they feel that it is justified for your condition.

Having to wait in an urgent care center can take a long time, and some patients end up waiting for hours to see a physician while feeling incredibly uncomfortable. This step can be skipped completely and you can have an appointment set up in your own home quickly and easily.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes being in a busy waiting room can be risky for your health, especially if you’re infectious or contagious. While waiting rooms are required to be well-ventilated, it’s not completely without risk.

About Antibiotics Use

Antibiotics are usually safe to use, but should only be taken if your doctor has prescribed them to you. Taking them without the need for them puts your health at further risk, as your body may resist their effects. It’s best to only take them when you’re sure you need them, which is when you’re told by your urgent care or virtual urgent care physician.

Key takeaways

  • You can receive antibiotics from your urgent care physician if your condition justifies it.
  • Antibiotics may seem harmless to take but can have harmful effects on your health if you take them without justification.
  • You can skip the waiting time of urgent care centers by using virtual urgent care services like DrHouse.

Sources:

  • Antibiotics Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/about.html 
  • Weinick, R.M., Bristol, S.J. & DesRoches, C.M. Urgent care centers in the U.S.: Findings from a national survey. BMC Health Serv Res 9, 79 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-9-79
  • Michael, M., Schaffer, S.D., Egan, P.L., Little, B.B. and Pritchard, P.S. (2013), Improving Wait Times and Patient Satisfaction in Primary Care. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 35: 50-60. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhq.12004
  • Schneider, D., Ayres, J. Two ways to survive infection: what resistance and tolerance can teach us about treating infectious diseases. Nat Rev Immunol 8, 889–895 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2432
  • Laura J Shallcross, Dame Sally C Davies. Antibiotic overuse: a key driver of antimicrobial resistance. British Journal of General Practice 2014; 64 (629): 604-605. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.3399/bjgp14X682561 
  • Uchtenhagen A, Gutzwiller F, Dobler-Mikola A, D, Steffen T: Programme for a Medical Prescription of Narcotics. Eur Addict Res 1997;3:160-163. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1159/000259173 
  • Miriam C. Fenton, Katherine M. Keyes, Silvia S. Martins, Deborah S. Hasin. The Role of a Prescription in Anxiety Medication Use, Abuse, and Dependence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2010, Pages 1247-1253, Volume 167, Issue 10. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09081132 
  • Marianne Frieri, Krishan Kumar, Anthony Boutin. Antibiotic resistance. Journal of Infection and Public Health, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2017, Pages 369-378, ISSN 1876-0341. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2016.08.007.

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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