If you feel sick or notice something unusual with your health, you may be wondering if you should go to the doctor. Although there are no set rules to seeing a healthcare professional, there are some guidelines you can follow to avoid an unnecessary appointment.
Appointments for the doctor’s office can be difficult to schedule, especially on short notice. A great alternative to a typical primary care appointment is an urgent care visit, which Mira offers at a low cost. For an average of $45 a month, you’ll get this benefit and more. Save yourself the wait; sign up for Mira today.
When Should I Visit the Doctor?
Deciding when to visit your doctor varies from person to person. You may worry that minor symptoms require a visit, or you may push off seeing a healthcare professional about your concerns. As a general rule, if you notice unusual symptoms in your health, you should monitor them over time to see if they get better or worse. This can apply to symptoms of colds, stomach problems, headaches, and more.
In addition, you should always note your risk factors associated with your age, gender, or other existing conditions. Always take these into account before deciding to visit a primary care physician. If you have recently had surgery, a procedure, or an immunization, new symptoms would also be a reason to see your doctor.
Ask Yourself Four Questions
Some general questions you can ask yourself before booking a doctor’s appointment are:
- Is something urgently wrong?
- What are my symptoms? Have I had them before? Is there something I’ve done in the past to make them go away?
- How long have I had my symptoms? Are they getting better? Worse?
- What would be best for my health?
Signs You Should See a Doctor or Medical Professional
Even common symptoms can become severe and concerning if they persist. Below are some typical symptoms you may experience and signs that it’s time to visit your doctor.
- Won’t go away with over the counter medication
- More severe than normal
- Keeps you from participating in daily activities
- In a location you don’t recognize
- Pain never subsides
- Cannot identify the cause of the pain
- Heartburn that won’t go away
- Vomiting blood
- Constipation, diarrhea, or nausea that won’t go away
- Blood in your stool
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- Cannot stop coughing (lasting more than 2 or 3 weeks)
- Persistent fever (over 102 degrees)
- Severe vomiting
- Short of breath
- Symptoms last more than ten days
- Severe cramps
- Bleeding in between periods
- Breast tenderness
- Period won’t stop
- Don’t have a period for three months or more
Mental Health Problems
- Feelings of depression that affects daily routine
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in eating
- Substance abuse
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Excessive anxiety or worry
Other Concerning Symptoms
- Rapid weight gain
- An injury that won’t heal
- Swollen or numb extremities
- Chronic back pain
- Tightness in chest
- Frequent confusion
- Muscles have been sore for more than a week
Doctors to Visit Regularly
Depending on your health status, you will need to visit several kinds of doctors each year. Routine physical exams are recommended once a year when you are over the age of 50 and once every three years for adults under 50. However, this number may increase if you have any serious medical conditions.
Depending on your age, gender, and health status, other specialty doctors may need to see you often. These include:
- Allergist: varies per person
- Cardiologist: once every two to four years if over 20
- Dentist: twice a year
- Dermatologist: once a year
- Gastroenterologist: once every 10 years if over 50
- OBGYN: once a year if over 21
- Urologist: once a year if over 40
In addition to seeing the above doctors, another way to keep an eye on your health is to get routine lab testing done. Preventative care is essential for catching potential threats to your health. The frequency in which you get certain lab tests can be affected by your risk factors and family history. In general, you should get the following tests at least once a year.
- Complete Blood Count (routine bloodwork)
- A1c Test (blood glucose test for diabetes)
- Lipid Panel (measures cholesterol levels)
- STD Screening (if sexually active)
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Primary Care Alternatives
In some situations, visiting your primary care doctor may not be the best option. There are alternative locations you can receive healthcare, depending on what you are experiencing.
Urgent care is a great alternative to a primary care facility, especially if your situation requires immediate attention. It can also be difficult to get an appointment with a doctor on short notice, while most urgent care centers accept walk-ins. Most facilities offer x-ray services, preventative care, physicals, and more. You can visit the facility’s website beforehand to determine if they offer the type of care you need.
Another benefit to visiting an urgent care center is the cost. A normal doctor’s office may have a higher deductible and can be very costly if you don’t have insurance. A visit to urgent care typically ranges from $135-198 without insurance, although it can vary on the care you need. In comparison, a primary care visit may be upwards of $300, and sometimes even more.
A great way to reduce the cost of your next urgent care visit is by signing up for Mira. For an average of $45 per month, you can get the cost of your visit reduced to an all-inclusive $99. In addition, you’ll also get up to 80 percent off on over 1000 different prescriptions, virtual care, and access to same-day lab testing.
Telemedicine is another great alternative to seeing the doctor. There are lots of services available through telehealth, not just primary care. You can speak to a doctor in the comfort of your own home, which is great for people who may have health anxiety. It is also extremely accessible, giving you the opportunity to speak with a professional that may not work where you live. You may also be able to get an appointment on much shorter notice. Virtual doctors can prescribe medication, serve as therapists, and even treat you for chronic conditions.
Like urgent care, telehealth is typically cheaper than visiting an in-person doctor. One study found that on average, a visit with a virtual doctor costs only $79. As stated above, seeing a primary care doctor could be three times as much. This may be a great option for you if you have concerns about the cost of going to the doctor and are pushing off care because of it.
In severe medical circumstances, your best option may be to visit the emergency room. If your symptoms are very concerning, going to the hospital right away or calling 911 may be more beneficial than trying to see your primary doctor. This could include heart attack symptoms, excessive bleeding, a broken bone, a stroke, and more. Don’t take a chance on signs and symptoms that are very unusual or severe. If something feels extremely wrong, go to the emergency room instead of your doctor.
Keeping an eye on your health is extremely important, especially if you have any medical conditions. Deciding if you need to see the doctor can be difficult. In general, if you experience any unusual symptoms or they persist for a long time, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. In some cases, a different type of healthcare may be better for you, like urgent care, telehealth, or the emergency room.
Mira offers low-cost urgent care visits, same-day lab testing, and up to 80 percent off on over 1000 different prescription medications. Your health is important; treat it well. Sign up for Mira today.
Talor graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health, and minors in Spanish and Diversity & Inclusion in May of 2022. She has a passion for health equity and diversity in health. In the future, Talor hopes to work in public health policy reform to help eliminate health disparities. She enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to podcasts in her free time.