One of the most frequent questions I often see asked on social media is: Should I see a doctor? This is one of the most common worries lots of us with health issues have. I’ve blogged a little before about my anxiety and that certainly extends to health anxiety at times.
Just before we begin, just to be clear that I am not talking about seeing your doctor in context of serious conditions like IBD (you should always seek urgent help in that respect) but the other health niggles we have that we struggle to differentiate between needing medical treatment or not (in my case, amplified by suffering from health anxiety and panicking!)
How can we tell the difference between our disease, medication side-effects, ‘something that’s going around’ and just our body needing a little bit of TLC? It can be incredibly difficult to know-especially when you’re worried about wasting a doctors time or worried about not being a good patient by seeking help promptly.
Today, I’ve teamed up with Caidr– a new app that helps you make decisions about your health and whether it requires urgent treatment or self-care- to share my top tips on understanding when you need to see a doctor. Of course, nothing should replace your gut instinct, but sometimes we can struggle to know whether it’s anxiety talking, when we should practice self-care first or how to be the best patient advocate we can be.
1.Make a list of your symptoms rationally
If anyone reading this knows me personally, you’ll know that this is me being the biggest hypocrite ever-as I am not rational in the slightest. However, one of the problems that cloud my judgement is when I panic. For example, I can’t distinguish between things like the severity of pain, how long it goes on for and whether it might be muscular.
I might go straight into ‘I’m in pain, my Crohn’s is back- call a doctor!’ mode or panic I’ve got the flu with one sniffle (being on immune supressants this isn’t ideal!) One of the best things I’ve found in this respect is the book ‘Overcoming Health Anxiety’.
There’s an exercise in the book which asks you to outline your symptoms rationally and the probability of what it might be rather than thinking worst case scenario immediately!
It helps you pinpoint what is actually going on- I’ll admit once or twice I have assumed I have Crohn’s pains and then remembered when I think rationally that I’d gone to Pilates the night before. That might sound ridiculous to some of you (and I’m in no way comparing Crohn’s pain to a pulled muscle!) but sometimes when you’re not thinking straight, you can definitely go off on tangents.
2. Reach out to others
One of the most useful things you can do is to reach out to your support network. I emphasise this particularly when talking about things like Crohn’s and IBS, as sometimes we’ll have something strange happen in that department and because of that ‘poo taboo’; we aren’t able to ask someone: What was that? Is that normal? Have I somehow inherited a tropical disease?
If you’re not confident enough to ask your family and friends, reach out and talk to others- a rational, second person perspective can work wonders. A Facebook group for your condition (such as my Healthy Living with IBD group) can also help you speak to those in similar positions who have undergone the same experience.
3. Use Caidr as reassurance
Caidr is one of those apps that can help get to the bottom of whether your symptoms require medical attention.It’s built with a team of healthcare professionals and is designed to not replace doctors, but just give you a bit of insight into whether you need urgent medical attention, how a pharmacist can help (with specific product information) and how you could use self-care at home.
Unlike many websites, it’s not ‘one size fits’ all; for example, I was pleased to see it asked about things such as age, whether I had other medical issues, whether I was on immunosuppressants and lots of other detailed questions.
It really is very thorough and as I blog a lot about IBD, I went through every ‘serious’ scenario (such as bleeding, being on immunosuppressants) and was pleased it urged me to see a doctor every time!
Although it is helpful as reassurance; it is also helpful to know that it doesn’t stop those who do need help seeking it-and can reassure you that you are thinking clearly and are doing the right thing making that appointment or heading off to A&E
I would definitely recommend keeping this on your phone as one way of guiding you with making a decision.
Just a reminder, if you’re still not satisfied after using the app and speaking with family- do give 111 a try. I’m lucky I’ve never needed to use it myself (as I have a specialist IBD helpline) but it can avoid you going to A&E and offer different treatment paths.
5. Keep the cupboards stocked
Finally, make sure you keep your cupboard stocked full of things that can help if you do decide to treat at home in the first instance. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of rehydration tablets (ORS hydration tablets pictured)-rather than just relying on water-as you often need electrolytes to be balanced when dealing with things like the flu or stomach upsets. I also keep Spatone to hand if I suspect my iron levels might be depleted, as well as things like Immodium, plenty of herbal tea, my Yuyu hot water bottle and indigestion tablets.
I hope you’ve found this post super helpful. Remember it’s really important not delaying receiving urgent medical attention, but if you’re dealing with smaller health niggles, my tips on health anxiety, self-care products and the Caidr app may well be of use.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is in collaboration with Caidr app