Over your lifetime, you’ll likely experience numerous bouts of mild illness and injury. Since your body comes equipped with an immune system and amazing self-healing properties, most minor maladies, aches, and pains resolve themselves with rest and time.
But when the condition is more serious, you may need medical intervention. The problem most people face is figuring out what types of health problems warrant a sick visit to the doctor.
Here at Millennium Park Medical Associates in Greenwood Village, Colorado, our internist, Dr. Farah Khan, understands your confusion and has compiled a list of general guidelines to help you decide when to stay home and let the condition run its course and when to call for an appointment.
When to see a doctor: the general rule of thumb
The reason you (and everyone else) has trouble figuring out when to make a doctor appointment is because there are no set rules. There are so many different possible illnesses with varying degrees of severity, and they each affect people differently, so the best rule of thumb is to go with your gut.
Most people know their body well enough to recognize the difference between a shallow cut and a laceration that needs stitches, so trust your instinct. If something seems seriously wrong, don’t hesitate to call us.
Coughs, colds, and viruses
Coughing, sneezing, sore throats, and stuffy noses are the main reasons people see their doctors, so let’s explore what they mean.
The common cold is a viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract. The symptoms are typically mild and include sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough, congestion, sneezing, and body aches. Occasionally, a cold comes with a fever.
The flu virus also attacks your respiratory system and has many of the same symptoms as a cold, except your cough will be dry, and you may have chills and sweats, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.
COVID-19 is also a viral infection with similar symptoms, although many sufferers report loss of smell and taste, which is unique to COVID-19. Otherwise, COVID-19 and flu symptoms are so similar, it’s even difficult for medical professionals to tell the difference without a test. We offer both the COVID nasal PCR and the antibody test by appointment.
If you have symptoms of a common cold, the flu, or COVID-19, stay home and call us. We can tell a lot by the way you describe your symptoms and can advise you over the phone.
We’ll need to see you if:
- Your cough persists more than two weeks
- Your fever exceeds 103°F for three days or more
- You have extreme difficulty swallowing or breathing
- You have persistent vomiting and diarrhea that leads to dehydration
Don’t suffer through extreme symptoms. If over-the-counter medications and rest don’t improve your symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment. In many cases, we can see you on the same day you call.
Occasional diarrhea and constipation are normal occurrences, but if they persist, we need to find out why. Gut issues can quickly diminish your quality of life, and left untreated, they can lead to complications, such as dehydration, rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids, and anal fissures.
Diarrhea and constipation may be symptoms of a wide range of conditions, so if they persist, it’s best to get to the bottom of it. Here are few signs that you have more than garden-variety issues:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Dark yellow urine
- Less urine output
- Extreme thirst
- Bloody stools
If you experience these symptoms, we check you for various conditions, including infections, digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic disorders, hormonal imbalances, and even medication-related issues.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. But once pain has served it purpose, it should subside. If you have chronic pain or acute pain that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain relievers, we encourage you to book an office visit to see Dr. Khan.
Whether you have unexplained muscle pain, and earache, or a headache, any type of pain that persists, doesn’t subside with rest and medication, or gets worse may indicate an underlying condition.
There are many types of headaches, including primary headaches, which are a medical condition in and of themselves, and secondary headaches, which are symptoms of other problems.
Earaches and sinus headaches may indicate a sinus, tooth, or jaw infection. Any type of pain that you would describe as more than minor, persistent, and progressively worse warrants an office visit.
Make an appointment for a sick visit
These are just a few examples of reasons to make a sick visit appointment. When in doubt, always remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call us at 720-928-5446 or use our online booking tool. We can help you decide if what you’re feeling warrants a sick visit and get you scheduled if it does.