Health and medical problems always arise in life. It is the price humans pay for being somewhat soft and fragile creatures. That is why everyone, even you, has a primary care doctor. Yet, when does a health or medical issue fit into the realm of a primary care visit, versus a secondary care visit or an emergency visit? As a young adult finally living on your own, you might be uncertain about where to go and who to see for your healthcare and medical needs. The following teaches you how you can decide who to see when you are sick or injured.
See a Primary Doctor
Your primary doctor, if you have one, is the doctor you see for most minor things. Got a sore throat? a cold that goes past the usual seven to ten days? Maybe you fell and your ankle is bothering you now? All of those problems can be treated by your primary care doctor.
In addition to the above, you can (and should) see your primary care doctor if:
- You experience a fever or chills with other symptoms (like a sore throat or abdominal pain)
- You have a rash (itchy or not)
- You have headaches or migraines that prevent you from going to work
- You are vomiting and you cannot even keep water down for more than a day
- You have some weird lumps bruises that appear and do not go away
- You seem to be getting sick with different illnesses every other week
- You have pain or fatigue that refuses to go away with OTC pain relievers
- You have swelling of any body part
- You are on medication, but you are experiencing unpleasant side effects
All of the above are treatable and diagnosable by your primary care doctor. If your doctor feels that a second opinion or that more diagnostic tests are needed, he or she will refer you to a secondary care doctor/specialist.
See a Secondary Care Doctor
A secondary care doctor is required if your primary care doctor feels your medical issue requires greater expertise. You may also choose to see a secondary care doctor if you feel that your medical issue is extreme. One such example is a super itchy rash with purulent weeping fluid that covers a large portion of your body. Rather than go to your primary care doctor, you can schedule an appointment with a dermatologist instead. You may not be able to get in to see a dermatologist right away, which is one drawback, but you would know with absolute certainty what your medical problem is and how to treat it.
See a Doctor in the Emergency Room
Finally, you need to see a doctor in the emergency room if you experience a medical issue that is extreme and potentially lethal.
Examples of E.R.-qualified problems include:
- Cutting yourself and you cannot stop the bleeding
- Stab wounds (even if they happened in your kitchen by accident when you were preparing dinner)
- Falls from a height of ten feet or more
- Falls onto extremely hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete
- Injured limbs with extreme swelling and unbelievable pain
- Injured limbs with bones sticking out or cuts that will not stop bleeding
- Pain so bad you double over and cry and you cannot seem to shake it
- Frequently passing out and coming to, which could be a sign of something neurologic or a problem within the brain
In short, any condition that leaves you almost completely unable to drive yourself to see your doctor is an E.R. doctor visit. Clearly, there is something more serious at play here. If what is going on with you makes it impossible for you to get yourself to a doctor, you need an ambulance and a trip to the emergency room.