When Should I Book an Urgent Appointment?

Patients often ask about situations in which it is appropriate to book an urgent appointment.  It can be a challenging question to answer due to differences in patient and physician expectations.  There are many symptoms in which there are no black and white rules. Some symptoms may appear scarier than others and appear urgent, even though the diagnosis is relatively benign. Meanwhile, some symptoms can only be managed at an Emergency Room, even though they may not be true emergency situations (e.g. dislocated shoulder, broken bones), as they require prompt access to certain tests or treatments that are not available at the clinic.

The Legal Stuff

The following is general medical information and is not intended to be used as medical advice.  It is intended as a general guide to help you decide when to go to the hospital, when to book an urgent appointment at the clinic, and when to book a regular appointment with your doctor.  

If it is an emergency, please call 911

If you or your loved one’s symptoms are debilitating or rapidly changing, please call 911. WebMD has a good summary on deciding when to call 911.


Examples of when to go to the Emergency Room:

  • Severe chest pain, especially if it radiates down your arm and/or up your jaw. This may be accompanied by sweating, vomiting and/or shortness of breath
  • Significant shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Sudden and new irregular heart beat (palpitations)
  • Sudden eyesight changes (e.g. blurry or double vision, loss of vision in all or part of your eye)
  • Sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis, especially if only on one side of the face or body
  • Sudden difficulty speaking, slurred speech, or trouble understanding speech
  • Sudden severe headache
  • New seizures or convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness (if preceded by or followed by an injury)
  • Major trauma / impact to the head
  • Falls / blows to head while taking blood thinning medications
  • Major impact to the head, neck, or back, causing injury
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Abdominal / pelvic pain with vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Persistent vomiting to the point where you are unable to keep anything down
  • Sudden testicular pain and swelling, usually on one side
  • Newborn baby (less than 3 months old) with a fever greater than 38 degrees C
  • Broken bone or dislocated joint
  • Cuts where you can see muscles, tendons, or bones
  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding due to an injury that does not stop after constant pressure for 10 minutes
  • Cuts to the face
  • Eye injuries
  • Moderate to serious burns
  • Poisoning
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Major changes in mental status or confusion
  • Bat or raccoon bites
  • Any serious condition that you feel is getting worse

Urgent Matters

Magenta Health is not an urgent care centre.

We do not have on-site access to diagnostic imaging (e.g. x-rays) or laboratory services. If you’re concerned about a broken bone, or it’s obvious that something is broken, please go directly to the emergency room.

Examples of when to book an urgent appointment:

  • Eye irritation (without changes to your vision)
  • Ear aches
  • Sore throats, coughs, and colds that are not improving after several days
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, where you can keep some liquid down
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting), if there is no associated injury
  • Mild to moderate breathing difficulties (e.g. mild to moderate asthma)
  • Minor sprains and strains
  • Moderate back pain
  • Sexually transmitted infection symptoms
  • Cuts where the bleeding is controlled, but may need a few stitches
    • cuts to the face should generally go to the emergency room
  • Minor burns
  • Rapidly progressing skin rashes without fever


In general, if your medical symptoms have been around for several weeks to months and have not changed significantly, please book a regular appointment.  The average wait time to see your doctor at Magenta Health for a regular, non-urgent appointment, is fewer than three days.

Examples of when to book a regular appointment:

  • Medical symptoms that have already been present for several weeks or longer, and have not changed
  • Renewing long standing medications (e.g. blood pressure medications, birth control etc.) - your pharmacist can also renew your medications for a limited time so that you don't run out before you see your doctor
  • Work note requests and other paperwork requests
  • Long standing periodic injections (ex. B12, allergy, Depo-Provera, Testosterone etc.)
  • Requests for sexually transmitted infection screening if you have no symptoms or concerns

Trust your Instincts

If you are unsure about where to go, trust your gut.  If your instincts are telling you that it’s an emergency, then please go to the Emergency Room. 

If you want non-emergency medical advice, you are always free to call Telehealth Ontario.  A Registered Nurse is able to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Please keep in mind that Telehealth Ontario does not have access to your medical records.