In the past, many people doctored their illnesses and injuries at home because they could not afford medical attention. Today, with more people than ever before covered by health insurance, medical treatment is widely available for a variety of ills. Unfortunately, some people seek medical care when they do not really need it, while others ignore serious symptoms that sometimes progress to dangerous conditions. The following general tips may be helpful in deciding when to seek medical attention.
A common rash from handling poison ivy or a mosquito bite swelling does not usually require a doctor’s care. Relatively minor symptoms like these can usually be handled by over-the-counter medications. However, someone who is allergic to poison ivy or mosquitos may experience a more severe reaction that would require emergency treatment.
Generalized redness, swelling, or itching over large sections of the body may need to be checked. Difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, or extreme weakness could signal an anaphylactic reaction, which demands emergency attention.
Symptoms that have little effect on the overall person can be checked by a phone call to the doctor’s office, if desired. Symptoms of unknown origin or with severe reactions need to be evaluated at the ER or by calling a medical squad (EMS).
If you get a deep cut that won’t stop bleeding despite pressure or wrapping, get immediate medical help. Scraping a finger may cause minor blood flow, but severing an artery can be life-threatening. Nicking an artery doesn’t have to result from a major injury; a minor cut on a major vessel can cause considerable loss of blood that, left unchecked, might cause the victim to go into shock.
Long-lasting fever or pain
Everyone can experience a fever with various medical problems, from a respiratory virus to a serious infection. Typically, a virus-related, low-grade fever below 102 degrees might last a day or two. However, temperatures above 103 should be reported to your doctor to see if action should be taken. Low-grade fevers that persist for several days or weeks should be assessed for possible underlying conditions.
In the same way, if you experience severe, unexpected pain, it is best to find out the source and have it treated for prompt relief. Unusual pain that lasts beyond a few days should also be checked out, as pain is a physical indicator that something is not right.
Dramatic mental change
Inarticulate speech or the inability to express coherent statements may be signs of a serious mental condition, like a stroke. Confusion, excessive emotion without a clear rationale, being unable to correctly name the date or year, or other changes in mental or emotional status need prompt medical evaluation. Sometimes a physical change may be the cause, such as a drop in blood pressure. Whatever the cause, medical assessment is necessary.
Unexplained physical impairment
Someone who suddenly loses vision in one eye, for example, or becomes unable to walk steadily needs to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. Incoherence or losing the use of a body part, like a hand or foot, should likewise be medically assessed. Sudden weakness or fatigue is another sign that something serious may be wrong. Any bodily change that limits or dramatically changes normal function should be evaluated by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional.
Most of us know our bodies well enough to know when something is amiss. Small changes may bear watching temporarily, but major changes should be reported to the family physician. Even if the problem is minor, prompt treatment can help to limit damage and prevent larger issues from developing.
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