Don’t Hit the Panic Button with Wintertime Illness
When flu and cold season strikes, you could feel so rotten that you start to consider a trip to the emergency room. Before you do anything, it’s important to remember that for more serious wintertime afflictions, symptoms typically linger for at least a week, whether you see your doctor or not. You should always start by calling your primary care doctor, but if your doctor isn’t available, you have other choices when suffering from symptoms associated with the flu and other cold-weather illnesses.
If you’re concerned that your symptoms indicate serious illness (such as persistent vomiting or a sudden and prominent rash for children), the 24-Hour Nurse Line can be a great way to discuss your signs and history without leaving your home. A registered nurse will offer personalized advice and guidance about where you should go for medical attention if it’s needed. Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO members should call 1-800-775-2583 and Blue Care Network HMO members should call 1-855-624-5214.
Alternately, you can sign up for 24/7 online doctor visits using your computer or mobile device. With this service, not only can you call for urgent care, but on some care plans, you can also speak with behavioral health professionals (available in 2018). Family members on your plan can use these same services.
For a quick in-person consultation, consider a retail health clinic (you can locate one near you by visiting Blue Cross’ Find Care website). Retail health clinics are typically located inside your local pharmacy or grocery store and allow you to be seen by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. They are able to write prescriptions and suggest over-the-counter solutions.
If you suddenly become sick on a holiday, weekend or late at night, an urgent care center may be the best choice, with locations just a couple clicks away at bcbsm.com/findcare. Urgent care centers allow you to walk into a local center and receive care from a doctor while avoiding the long wait and higher cost of an emergency room.
While most of the season’s health issues can be treated with the above options, there are certain times when it’s most appropriate to head directly to the ER. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if your life is in danger, such as if you have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Severe abdominal pain
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting