When Should You Go to the Doctor?

woman asking her doctor a question

The answer to this question differs according to each situation, of course, according to your unique health history and preferences. 

  • You should begin by understanding your risk factors and taking them into account:  these include your age and any existing conditions, (for example if you have asthma, you need to take any respiratory issue seriously immediately).


  • If your provider has told you about warning signs to look for, you need to call that provider right away if you encounter them.


  • If you have new symptoms after a procedure, surgery, immunization or injection, or starting a new medicine, you should call right away, even if the symptoms don't seem related (because it could be an early warning of a side effect or complication).


General Questions to Ask

Below are some questions to ask yourself  that can help you decide if you should call your provider:

  • Do I sense that something is urgently wrong? 
    Start here. Trust your instincts and see a doctor if you sense that you need immediate medical attention.  Always check out chest pains, loss of consciousness, or new severe physical pain.


  • What are my symptoms?  Have I had them before?  If so, how did they get resolved?  Would the same approach work now or is there something different about the symptoms this time?


  • How long have the symptoms been going on?   Are they getting better or worse? 
    Generally any symptoms that are not improving after one to two weeks are worth pursuing with a healthcare provider.  Pay attention to symptoms that are getting worse (and consider the first question).


  • Can I get more information from a book or reputable website to answer my specific questions?


  • What do I really think would be best for my health (ignoring any worries that I will be a bother if I go to the doctor, or that it will cost too much)?