What to Treat at Home and When to See the Doctor

Generally speaking, most health issues fall into two categories: those mild enough to be treated at home, and those serious enough to warrant professional medical attention. For those that live in areas around the world where universal healthcare is not readily accessible, deciding between at-home care or a trip the doctor’s can be the difference between free care or expenses that often exceed more than a month’s pay. 

Often times, determining whether a doctor’s care is necessary, or mending an injury or illness at home, is more than dollars and cents – it’s life and death. Those wishing to avoid spending money on healthcare by avoiding the doctor must understand the value to the adage “You can’t take it with you.” In short, what good is saving money by avoiding the doctor if you don’t survive the ordeal?

To help readers determine which health issues are best suited for ‘at-home’ care or which should be treated by a healthcare professional, we have put together a list of some of the most common ailments that afflict people across the world everyday.

In addition to health conditions being divided between ‘at-home’ and ‘professional treatment’, the majority of common ailments can be separated into two categories: Injury and Illness. Below, we’ve gone into detail breaking down common injuries and common illnesses as well as the appropriate steps one should take when determining to treat the injury/illness at home or to seek professional health care.

Injurystairs fall


Falls are the most common type of injury that occurs in the home. Fortunately, the majority of injuries caused by falls at home can be mended with quality first aid supplies and some ice. Most injuries sustained from falls include rug burns, bruising, minor sprains or twisting of joints, scrapes, and knots. However, if the swelling doesn’t decrease or the pain doesn’t fade within a reasonable amount of time, a trip to the ER might be necessary as those symptoms could indicate a broken bone or a more serious muscle strain/pull.


From hot water taps to stove tops to hair straighteners, its nearly inevitable that a person will experience a surface level burn at some point in time. Most topical burns (or first degree burns) can be remedied with simple home based solutions: cold running water, an applied analgesic, and antibacterial dressings typically are enough to heal a burn. If the skin bubbles or there is sever discoloration of the skin, this may indicate that the burn is of the second- and third-degree category, and professional medical attention is suggested.


Paper cuts and similar small lacerations tend to be less serious than the pain and bleeding would suggest. A simple rinse, dry, and bandage application will do the trick nine times out of ten. When bandaging the area, be sure to wrap it ‘just right’ to avoid the bandage from being too loose or too tight, as either of the latter instances will be ineffective in healing the cut. Deeper cuts, usually caused by inattention while using a kitchen knife, will often times require stitching. In this instance, you’ll want to take a trip the ER so that a certified professional can close the wound. In the days that follow, clean and dress the wound daily to help prevent infection.




The common cold or the flu only require a trip to the doctor if the readout on the thermometer is unusually high. If a child under the age of four contracts a fever that reaches 40C (104F), professional medical attention is recommended immediately. Outside of this, rest and staying hydrated are thTB coughe best remedies for kicking the cold/flu bug.


Spoiled food, food allergies, or bacteria can lead to intestinal illness. Similar to when someone has a cold or flu, ensuring hydration levels are high is key to preventing a relatively minor illness turn into something more serious. Some symptoms of gastrointestinal illness can include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and/or vomiting. If vomit includes blood, or the symptoms are still present after 48 hours, then medical attention is needed.


Nausea can be a symptom of an intestinal illness. However, nausea unaccompanied by diarrhea, stomach pain, or from having consumed spoiled food may be a sign of something more serious. Men and women experiencing nausea for longer than several days, despite otherwise feeling healthy, are encouraged to seek professional medical attention as soon as possible to rule out any major illness that may indicate a more serious condition.

Deciding whether or not injury or illness requires the attention of a doctor is a tough call for millions of people living in places without access universal healthcare. However, avoiding the doctor to save money is a silly strategy considering the alternative. While life or death health problems are relatively rare, it’s critical to know when a doctor’s care is needed when you experience an injury or illness.

Article by Jennifer Smith

  1. September 16, 2016
  2. November 21, 2016

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