You’re sick. You are feeling terrible, but is it terrible enough to see a doctor? Will that nagging cough go away or should you have a chat with your doctor about it? Is that pain due to age or overexertion or something more? How long is too long to run a fever, and how high is too high?

Like so many people you’ve probably wondered this and more at some time or another. And it certainly isn’t easy to know when you should see your doctor or if you can stay home and ride it out on your own.

The truth is, there are no hard, fast rules about when you should go and when you should wait. However, some guidelines can help you make the decision the next time you’re faced with this dilemma.

Cold or Flu

Most of the time you can manage cold and flu symptoms with fluids, rest, and over-the-counter medicine.

When to call the doctor

  • If it hurts to swallow or is difficult to swallow (more than a sore or scratchy throat)
  • A cough that persists beyond two or three weeks
  • Earache
  • Fever that doesn’t break or doesn’t go down.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Any symptoms that last longer than ten days or worsen instead of getting better


An adult is considered to be running a fever if they have a temperature that is 100.4 F or higher. But fever can be low grade or high grade:

  • Low-grade fever
    • 100.4 F to 102.2 F
  • No medication is required unless:
    • The patient is an infant, or
    • The fever is accompanied by other symptoms
  • High-grade fever
    • 102.2 or higher
    • Caution: It could indicate a serious illness or infection
  • See a doctor if
    • It persists for more than three to five days
    • Does not respond to ibuprofen or acetaminophen
    • Is accompanied by confusion, sensitivity, or stiffness
  • Go to an emergency room if you experience
    • Seizures 
    • Shortness of breath
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Severe headache


Experiencing diarrhea now and then is not necessarily anything to cause concern and usually doesn’t mean that there is a problem. But sometimes it can mean that there is a problem.

When to call the doctor:

  • It persists for more than three days
  • Blood in the stool
  • Is accompanied by symptoms of dehydration
  • Decreased urination
  • Very dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Very dry skin
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache 
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Tarry, black stools

Digestive Problems

Digestive issues can occur in either the upper or lower digestive tract which includes the stomach, esophagus, and intestines.

When to call the doctor:

  • Heartburn that gets worse, won’t go away, or does not get better even though you take medicine
  • Sore throat or hoarseness that will not go away
  • Vomiting bile (green) or blood (red or coffee-ground consistency)
  • Persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • A feeling of having food stuck in your chest or throat
  • Painful or difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent nausea
  • Persistent or severe abdominal pain
  • Bloody or black stools


Everyone gets headaches now and then. Usually, they will go away with some over-the-counter medicine, a little rest, and good hydration. However, there are times when a headache can mean something more. It could indicate a serious condition like meningitis or stroke.

When to call the doctor:

  • A headache that is different than what you usually have
    • Different location
    • More severe
    • More frequent
  • A headache that gets worse even though you take an over-the-counter medicine
  • A headache that won’t go away even though you take an over-the-counter medicine
  • Headaches that prevent you from sleeping, working, or participating in activities

When to go to the emergency room:

  • Headache with
    • Fever
    • Confusion
    • Stiff neck
    • Difficulty walking
    • Difficulty speaking
    • Paralysis (partial or full)

Head Injury

A bump on the head isn’t necessarily anything to be concerned about, but sometimes it could cause a concussion.

When to call the doctor:

  • Head injury is accompanied by
    • Balance problems
    • Vomiting and nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Foggy or sluggish feelings
    • Problems with sleep
    • Memory problems
    • Sensitivity to noise or light
    • Concentration problems
    • Changes in mood

Back Pain

Most of the time back pain goes away in a few days or weeks without anything more than heat or ice packs and over-the-counter medicine. Sometimes though, it means something else is going on.

When to call the doctor:

  • Persistent pain that won’t let up
  • Pain that is accompanied by numbness, weakness, or tingling in one or both legs
  • Pain that is accompanied by redness or swelling in the back
  • Pain that radiates down one or both legs, especially if it extends beyond the knee
  • Pain accompanied by unexplained weight loss
  • Pain accompanied by fever

Mental Health Concerns

Mental health changes should never be ignored, but often people don’t give their mental health the weight it deserves. Mental health issues are usually easily treatable.

When to call the doctor

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or depression
  • Excessive anxiety, worry, or fear
  • Changes in sleeping or eating
  • Hallucinations
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
  • Delusions
  • Experiencing extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and social interactions
  • Difficulty coping with daily issues or problems
  • Substance abuse

When you are feeling under the weather and need to see a doctor, Sandstone Family Medicine is here for you. Our talented, experienced team of healthcare professionals will help get you back on your feet and ensure that you are at your healthiest. Let us be a part of your health and wellness team. 

Give our Woodforest office a call at 936-436-8121 or schedule an appointment online.