The main purpose of this Symptom Checker is to help you know how sick you (or your child) are. This will help you decide if and when you need to call your doctor. The other purpose is to help you treat yourself (or your child) at home when it is safe to do so.

Your doctor's advice and your good judgment should always take precedence over information in these care guides.

Here are some instructions for using this Symptom Checker.

Select a Care Guide. Choose the care guide that most closely matches your (or your child's) symptoms.

  • If you (or your child) have more than one symptom, focus on the most serious symptom. Serious means the symptom you think could cause the most harm. Here is an example. If you have both a head injury and a nosebleed, use the Head Injury care guide first. Head injury is more serious.
  • If you are not sure which care guide to use, then use more than one.
  • Do not use the Fever care guide unless fever is the only symptom. If you (or your child) also have a cough, diarrhea or other symptom, go to that care guide first.
  • Choosing the main symptom is important because it leads you to the best information for your illness or injury.

Use the Care Guide. There are four main sections in each care guide:

  1. Problem: Each care guide describes what it covers. Read this to make sure it is a good description of your (or your child's) problem. If not, there may be a list of related symptoms (or care guides) below.
  2. What to Do. The What to Do section helps you find out how serious your problem is and what you should do. Your possible actions include Call 911, Go to ER, Call Your Doctor Now, Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours, and so on. Below each What to Do heading is a list of symptoms. Read the list from top to bottom and do not skip any items. Stop if you get to a statement that is true about your health problem. Then take the action suggested in the What to Do heading.
  3. Care Advice. This page gives you advice on how to treat minor illnesses and injuries at home. Follow this Care Advice if you do not need to see your doctor. If you should see your doctor, use this Care Advice until then. Be alert to any worsening or new symptoms. Call your doctor if you (or your child) get worse.
  4. Share. This page summarizes your use of the care guide. You can email the summary and care advice to a friend or family member.

If you think that you (or your child) are having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

Author: David A. Thompson, M.D.

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