When Should I Seek Medical Care?
Last updated: April 2023
The last thing we want to do when we are sick, or hurt is going to the ER or urgent care. We see so many doctors, so the thought of seeing one more is overwhelming. Secondly, we know how many ER or urgent cares will look at and treat us since we have lupus. They always want to blame whatever is going on our lupus. Or they treat us poorly when they see pain medications on our home medication list. Oftentimes, before seeing us, they assume we are there for pain medication when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
So when should we go in and seek treatment? And how do we know whether we should go to our PCP, urgent care, or the ER? Let’s talk about it!
How do I know where to go when sick or injured?
Primary Care Provider (PCP)
- When to go to your Primary Care Provider (PCP): Call your PCP if you feel like you have a bad head cold, sinus infection, bronchitis, strep throat, small cuts that don’t require stitches or an injury that just isn’t getting better.
- When NOT to go to your PCP: This office is not the place to go with any trauma, any clearly or suspected broken bones, or if you are dehydrated and need IV fluids.
- When to go to urgent care: Urgent care is a good option if you get sick in the evening or on the weekend and must be seen before your PCP office opens. This option is good for small cuts, sprains, and broken bones. Some urgent cares can also do IVs and IV fluids if needed.
- When NOT to go to urgent care: Go to the ER if you have signs and symptoms of stroke or heart attack, and have a suspected bad gallbladder or appendix that might need to come out.
Emergency Room (ER)
You should only go to the ER in an emergency. The ER is not the place to go for a sore throat, a cold, or anything that could be taken care of at your PCP office or urgent care. The ER is for trauma after a car accident, chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or high fever. It is also best to go to the ER if you have the signs and symptoms of stroke, heart attack, seizures, severely broken bones, or your blood pressure is super low or high.
What symptoms require a visit to the ER:
- Low oxygen saturations. If you have been instructed to check your oxygen level at home and can’t get it above 90 percent, and you feel like you can’t take a full breath or are very short of breath, go to the hospital.
- Chest pain or signs of a heart attack. Any time you have new chest pain, you should seek care. This is especially true if it’s accompanied by shortness of breath, breathing pain, pain radiating to your left shoulder, feeling like an elephant on your chest, feeling nauseated, clammy/sweaty, and low oxygen saturation.
- Signs and symptoms of a stroke. If you or your family member starts drooping in the face, weakness in the arm, or trouble talking (if speech is slurred, jumbled, or you have trouble finding the word you want), go to the hospital. It’s helpful to remember the acronym FAST which stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time. These are symptoms of a stroke.
- Blood pressure. Head to the hospital if your blood pressure reaches 180/120 (especially if it accompanies signs and symptoms of stroke, heart attack, or a severe headache) or whatever level a provider has instructed you. High blood pressure can be just as dangerous as LOW blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under 90/60 and this is abnormal for you, you should seek care. If it’s accompanied by feeling faint when standing or changing positions, dizzy, cold/clammy, rapid shallow breathing, and/or heart palpitations, go to the hospital.
- Signs and symptoms of sepsis. I was recently hospitalized for sepsis. Some of the warning signs for me were generally feeling sick and starting to feel faint, with blood pressure is under 90/60, heart rate over 120, and temperature of 103° or higher.
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