Please remember the following entry is the personal opinion of the writer. No medical advice should be construed as fact. Always follow professional medical advice when seeking medical attention. The writer has no medical training or expertise, other than their own personal experiences as a patient. You should always consult trained and accredited medical personnel for any and all medical situations.
Of course, the age old question in dealing with Doctor, etc., is just simply how sick am I, and when does it warrant further investigation? I don't know about everyone else, so we'll use my barometer to measure:
If you're too sick to go to work, school, etc., you're probably sick enough to stay home and in bed.
If, however, you're running a high temperature, have nausea, diarrhea, or a blinding headache, then you should at the very least consider going to see your Primary Care Physician.
If you feel too sick to drive, or make any decisions, I'd recommend an Urgent Care facility.
If you can't make heads or tails about what to do, I'd consider visiting the Emergency Room.
Now, I realize these are oversimplified instances and each person should determine their own comfort level when seeking medical treatment, but a lot of the time, things aren't quite so easy to decide.
Usually for myself, if I can make sound choices about my care, then I keep to my home or see my PCP. Especially if "it" doesn't seem to want to leave. If, however, I start wondering aloud and not making much sense, then I tend to believe I'm a lot sicker than I'd realized. That's when I consider the Urgent Care facility.
Not always, but occasionally, I've gone to see the PCP and have been sent on to the Urgent Care or Emergency Room. But mostly, I try to keep my choices clear and direct. If something seems broken, such as an arm or toe, or if I need stitches for a deep cut --- those are obvious Urgent Care visits. But, if I also hit my head, plus I believe I've broken a bone, well then I'm headed straight to the Emergency Room asap!
These are basics. Everyone has their point of a slip -up vs a disaster. The really difficult test comes when you're not sure what's happening! For instance: you have an upset stomach with a little pain. Now what? Well, first, I'd call the PCP's office and ask them what they'd recommend. Unfortunately, as we've already discovered and discussed, a great many times your attempts to call a PCP go unheeded or ignored altogether.
If it's something completely new, and doesn't appear to have any reasons for it, I'd at least go to an Urgent Care facility. It may waste a great deal of time, but you never know when it could be serious. If you can't decide, a bit of waiting and some Internet research may be very helpful. Who knows, maybe the potato salad didn't agree with you today, or after the third day in a row. Or, it could be the virus plaguing all your co-workers.
The truth is you'll never know all the right choices ahead of time. Only in hindsight can we make error free choices. So, what to do? Ask yourself some basic questions, and be honest!:
Does it hurt bad enough to warrant being poked and prodded?
Is this worse than anything you've ever had before?
Does this seem different from the countless times you've been sick before?
Do you feel you need a Doctor's opinion?
Are you worried or overly concerned about how you feel?
Does your spouse, significant other, or friends feel you should see medical attention?
If someone else had the exact same symptoms, what would you advise them to do?
Are you only putting off a visit to the Urgent Care facility or Emergency Room or PCP's office, because of the amount of time you'd be waiting?
What's the worst that could happen if you go see a Doctor?
What's the worst that could happen if you don't go see a Doctor?
Can you tolerate the symptoms comfortably until tomorrow, or when you can get an appointment with your PCP?
Is there anything you can do to relieve or alleviate your symptoms right now?
If you answered all these questions truthfully and honestly, and without any guilt, then you should have a pretty good idea about what to do. I find, for the most part, common sense, and knowing yourself well, is the best barometer in determining when something needs further attention. If you're truly uncertain, then a dose of caution is usually the best course of action.
Just remember, your health is a life and death matter! No amount of joking or glossing it over can change that one fact. So, keep that in mind the next time you wonder whether you're wasting every one's time and efforts. Even the smallest molehill can become a mountain, left to it's own devices! Besides, just consider it as a small repayment towards all the hours you've wasted waiting for the Doctor to get around to you.