Can Urgent Care Prescribe Antibiotics?

Feb 22 2024

Can urgent care prescribe antibiotics? Yes, urgent care centers can. However, there is a catch.

Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed won’t help you feel better – and they may cause unwelcome side effects. This is why you may not get an antibiotics prescription during your urgent care visit.

Urgent care providers only prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, urinary tract infection or whooping cough. In addition, antibiotic resistance is one of the top concerns of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which advises health care providers and health care organizations to carefully prescribe antibiotics only when necessary.

Some of the most common viruses won’t be cured by antibiotics. These include:

  • Colds and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green
  • Most sore throats, with the exception of strep throat
  • Flu
  • Chest colds and bronchitis

But complicating matters, some illnesses may be bacterial or viral. These include:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections

In general, our urgent care providers may run lab tests (to confirm or rule out strep and flu, for example) and evaluate factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and their duration, to help determine the best course to treat your illness. In the case of a sinus infection, for example, your provider may suggest over-the-counter remedies to reduce congestion or to help with persistent coughing, rather than prescribe a medication. If your sinus infection persists for more than a week, then antibiotics may be in order.

According to recent data from the CDC, about 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.

And excessive use of antibiotics is the leading contributor to antibiotic-resistant germs, which means they won’t work when they are really needed.

So, if your medical provider doesn’t think an antibiotic is the answer for your illness or your child’s, they are keeping overall health in mind. However, be sure to talk about what medication may help with symptom relief. It’s also a good idea to discuss next steps – for example, if symptoms persist or grow worse, your provider may suggest a follow-up visit or additional lab tests.

So, can urgent care prescribe antibiotics? Again, yes these health care facilities can. However, it won’t happen in every case in order to keep your overall health safe.

Learn about the urgent care services we provide at Mercy Health.

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