What to Do

What to Do... Your Choice, Your Decision

The purpose of these care guides is to help you decide how sick you (or your child) are. Then it is time for you to make a decision and act. Read the What to Do screen and use common sense to choose one of the What to Do choices:

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance)

  • What This Means: You (or your child) may have a life-threatening emergency.
  • What You Should Do: Call 911 right NOW or your emergency ambulance service.

Go to ER

  • What This Means: You (or your child) may have an emergency medical problem.
  • What You Should Do: You should go to the Emergency Room (ER) now.

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • What This Means: You (or your child) may have an emergency or urgent condition.
  • What You Should Do: Call your doctor right away. If you can't reach your doctor within 30-60 minutes, go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center by car. If you don't have a doctor, go to the ER or Urgent Care now.

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • What This Means: You (or your child) probably have an illness that needs testing or treatment. You may need a test (such as a throat culture) or an antibiotic (such as for an ear infection). You may need to be seen by a doctor. But you should be able to safely wait until tomorrow.
  • What You Should Do: If the office is open, call now. If the office is closed now, but will be open within 24 hours, call when it opens. If you don't have a doctor, go to an urgent care center or ER within the next 24 hours.

Call Doctor During Weekday

  • What This Means: You (or your child) probably have a non-urgent symptom or illness. It may be lasting longer than expected (such as a cough or rash). But usually there is no risk of complications. You may need to be seen in the office by your doctor. It is generally safe to wait a few days to do so if it's the weekend or a holiday.
  • What You Should Do: If the office is open, call now. If it is closed, call during scheduled weekday office hours on Monday - Friday. If you don't have a doctor, choose a doctor and call their office. Make an appointment to be seen within the next 3 days.

Self Care at Home

  • What This Means: You (or your child) probably have a mild illness and do not need to see a doctor. These illnesses are usually harmless and get better without medical care.
  • What You Should Do: Follow the care advice found in each guideline. Call your doctor if your condition becomes worse.

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!

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

Author: David A. Thompson, M.D.

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