Should you see a doctor?

We make a lot of decisions every single day, starting with the choice of whether or not to get up when or alarm goes off or press the snooze button, and ending with the choice of whether or not to go to bed or watch a few more episodes of our newest Netflix obsession.

Not making a choice is, in effect, its own kind of choice. Inaction is not as proactive as action, but it’s still something. One decision that’s critical to our health and overall well-being is deciding when and if we need to see a doctor, or if the problem is something that we can take care of on our own.

Colds, coughs, and acute illnesses

You wake up with a stuffy nose and a cough that won’t quit. You fall down a flight of stairs and break your leg. Those are what’s known as “acute” conditions, which means the onset is sudden and the duration is usually pretty short. It takes a few weeks to fix a broken bone, yes, but that’s still not considered a chronic condition. Chronic conditions generally take a while to develop, and the effects can last a lifetime.

If you you’re dealing with something like a sinus infection or a bad case of the flu, you should probably go to the doctor. Some sinus infections can be flushed out with fluids and rest, but others require antibiotics. The flu is especially nasty and may also require medical care, especially if you become dehydrated. It’s not uncommon for diseases like the flu to appear to be getting better, only to come back with a vengeance. Medical attention is advisable in cases like that as well. If you don’t want to bother making an appointment with your regular doctor (or if you don’t have one), look for a clinic with “urgent care” or “immediate care” in its name. Such clinics generally allow you to make same-day appointments or be treated on a walk-in basis. However, these are not the places to be treated for life-threatening emergencies. If, for instance, someone is bleeding a lot or just suffered a serious head injury, head to the emergency room.

Acute conditions

As a group, Americans tend to have troublesome sleep habits, and that was true long before those pesky smartphone screens came along and convinced our bodies it was daytime. Good sleep means we have a good foundation for our day; bad sleep means our foundation is shaky and prone to crumbling. Disorders like sleep apnea and sleepwalking are considered acute, which means you need to see a primary care doctor or specialist and develop a long-term treatment plan. If you’re a narcoleptic in New Jersey, get a New Jersey sleep disorder assessment and treatment. If you’re an insomniac in Idaho, do the same thing there. Sleep disorder clinics exist in just about every part of the country by now, and so there’s no excuse not to get the help you need

Chronic pain is another all-too-common condition, and it can be especially frustrating and hard to treat. Acute pain offers hope that an end to the suffering is near, but chronic pain feels as if it will go on forever. It may take a few visits to a few different doctors, but such pain can be managed in the majority of cases.