It’s not always easy to know where to go to seek treatment if you aren’t feeling great or if you have injured yourself, especially if it’s at night or on the weekend when your doctor may not be in.
If the situation is not life-threatening or is not causing extreme pain, it’s always better to make an appointment to see your primary care physician.
There are reasons your regular doctor, if you have one, is your best option. If you don’t see a physician regularly, you should definitely make that a priority.
A family doctor can get to know you and can help you stay healthy by providing annual checkups, screening and other preventative health services. Primary care doctors strive to develop a relationship with you in an effort to understand and track your health history.
Also, if you have chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, your doctor can help you manage those so you don’t become sicker. Your primary care doctor can also refer you to a specialist if your condition requires a more specific treatment plan.
Still, there are likely going to be times when the unforeseen occurs. You get sick or you are injured and you can’t wait to see your doctor.
That’s when a visit to urgent care or the emergency room might be necessary.
In general, a trip to urgent care is recommended for the following conditions and symptoms:
♦ First or second-degree burns
♦ Colds, cough or flu
♦ Eye, ear or skin infections
♦ Minor cuts, bruises and abrasions
♦ Respiratory infections
♦ Strains or sprains
♦ Urinary tract infections
Urgent care centers are staffed by qualified physicians, health care providers and nurses and are open evenings, weekends and holidays. These clinics are a good choice when you need to see a physician after hours or without an appointment.
You should keep in mind, though, that the doctors you see at an urgent care center don’t have an established relationship with you and won’t know your medical history. That’s why it’s so important to have a primary care physician who sees you on a regular basis.
There are also times when it might be necessary to call 911 or get someone to take you to an emergency room. In general, emergency room visits should be reserved for anything that requires immediate medical attention.
The American College of Emergency Physicians provides the following list conditions that fall in that category:
♦ Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
♦ Chest or upper♦ belly pain or pressure lasting 2 minutes or more
♦ Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
♦ Changes in vision
♦ Confusion or changes in mental status
♦ Any sudden or severe pain
♦ Uncontrolled bleeding
♦ Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
♦ Coughing or vomiting blood
♦ Suicidal or homicidal feelings
♦ Difficulty speaking, or numbness or weakness in any part of your body
♦ Unusual belly pain
Other conditions and symptoms that require emergency attention include:
♦ Drug overdose
♦ Loss of consciousness
♦ Major burn
♦ Spinal cord, head, or brain injury
♦ Severe allergic reaction
♦ A fast heartbeat (more than 120 to 150 beats per minute) at rest, especially if associated with shortness of breath or feeling faint
♦ A broken bone with skin protruding through the skin
Don’t be afraid to seek help anytime you are not comfortable with a medical situation. Sometimes, a quick call for help can save a life.