Whether to see your doctor or go to the emergency room can be a difficult question to answer sometimes. Depending on how sick you are and what the problem might be, making the right decision can come down to a judgment call about your symptoms. You may not always be able to tell how truly serious something is, but you want to make sure you don’t take chances with your health. Here are nine times you should see your doctor, and four times you’ll want to make the ER a priority.
When you should call your doctor
1) Flu symptoms
The flu can be serious, but it’s usually not a medical emergency. Before you get too worried and rush off to the ER, give your doctor a call. They may want you to come in to be evaluated, or they may prescribe something like Tamiflu for you to take. In that case, you would probably only be told to go to the ER if your symptoms didn’t improve or if they continued to get worse.
2) Cold symptoms
There’s only so much you can do to treat a cold. Antibiotics don’t work for it, and most people get over a cold just fine on their own. If you have a particularly severe cold, or you have other medical conditions that could make it worse, such as asthma or a lung disease, you may be more at risk for complications. Seeing your doctor can help you determine whether you need any further treatment.
3) Ear infections
In very rare cases an ear infection can cause damage to the ear drum, but that’s not a common thing. Usually they clear up with proper treatment, and don’t leave any lasting damage. Most ear infections occur in children, but adults can definitely get them, as well. If you have one or you suspect one, seeing your doctor is the best course of action. It’s not an emergency, but you’ll probably need antibiotics to clear it up.
4) Urinary/bladder infections
A urinary tract or bladder infection can be very uncomfortable, although some people have virtually no symptoms at all. If you’re experiencing symptoms or you don’t feel well and have a history of these types of infections, a visit to your doctor is in order. You can get tested easily in order to see if there’s any infection present, and that can mean prompt treatment with antibiotics to help you feel better faster.
5) Medication refills when on vacation
If you’re on vacation and you accidentally run out of your medication, contact your doctor right away. They can usually call in a prescription to the pharmacy that’s closest to you while you’re traveling. That can give you quick access to needed medication, and you won’t end up with a lot of wasted hours and a big expense for going to the ER to try to get medication refills.
6) Blood work
Your doctor may have a lab on the premises, or he may send blood out to be analyzed. Either way, you’ll get your results quickly. There’s no need to head to the ER when you need a blood test done. Many ERs are very busy, and you could end up waiting for hours, only to be told to see your doctor, instead.
7) Allergic reactions
Most allergic reactions are mild. They can include itching, stinging, and similar types of feelings at the affected area. You could also develop a light case of hives or feel poorly for a little while. Sneezing, watery eyes, and other kinds of upper respiratory issues can also come about from allergies. Unless you have a severe reaction to something, your doctor is the person to call.
8) Minor to moderate cuts and gashes
Minor cuts, and even moderate gashes, can be treated at your doctor’s office. They have the tools to assess the seriousness of your injury, and decide if you need a couple stitches, or if more has to be done. Your doctor may decide to send you to the ER for treatment, depending on the damage, but the ER shouldn’t be your first choice for help.
9) Kidney stone pain
The ER can’t do a lot for your kidney stone pain. Most kidney stones will pass on their own, and if they don’t there are options that can be used in order to treat them successfully. Scheduling that can take some time, and seeing your doctor when your pain first starts is the best way to get the help you need for your kidney stones.
When you should go to the ER
10) Chest pains
While there are many causes for chest pains, and most of those causes are not overly serious, you still need to head to the ER. Don’t take chances with chest pain, especially if you’ve never had it before, you have a heart condition, or you also have other symptoms along with it, such as pain in your jaw or down your arm, nausea, sweating, or dizziness. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry where chest pains are concerned. They can definitely signal a true emergency.
11) Severe allergic reactions
Some allergic reactions can be much more severe than sneezing or itching. If you have a reaction like trouble breathing, your tongue, lips, or throat swelling, or a large rash, head to the ER. That may be something more than what your doctor could treat in their office, and you want to be where they have the equipment and medications to help you if needed.
12) Head injuries
Whether it’s a concussion, a gash, or some other type of problem, a head injury is always a reason to go to the ER. You don’t want to ignore a potentially life-threatening issue. Not all head injuries are severe, but because they can be significant you want to make sure you get fast treatment, along with testing to determine the severity of the problem.
13) Heavy bleeding
Bleeding heavily is something you should take seriously. Whether you’re bleeding from an injury or seems to have started at random (such as a serious nose bleed), you can bleed out quite quickly. Rather than take that risk and try to get it stopped on your own, you really need to get to the ER as soon as possible. They have more options for stopping the bleeding, and can also give you a transfusion if you need it.
In short, just don’t take chances with severe medical issues. When in doubt, go to the ER for all the big things that can happen. Your doctor should be able to take care of the smaller medical issues that appear from time to time, so you can feel your best and get the right treatment for any injury or condition. Call AM~PM Doc to have the doctor evaluate your condition and prescribe the best course of action.