Urgent care? ER?
September 23, 2011 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Urgent care? ER? Where am I supposed to go? I don't have a doctor here (Fairfax County, VA). I'm clueless. I got the flu last weekend but am still experiencing symptoms, including a new one - a burning hot pain in the pit of my stomach.

I got the flu (or something like it) last weekend with aches and pains all over with a 101 degree fever. By Monday this week I was feeling well enough to go back to work, but still not 100%.

It's been exactly 7 days now and I still am feeling some of the less threatening flu-like symptoms: tired all the time, slightly weak, extremely depressed/lethargic, loss of appetite. and feeling some flu-y/achy malaise in the mornings that slowly dissipates throughout the day.

And now a new symptom has arrived as of 2am this morning - a hot, searing pain in the pit of my stomach. If I take TUM's it subsides about 75% for a few hours, but when it's full force it's extremely painful. I'm at work now and when the pain was full on it was absolutely distracting.

I'm not asking askmetafilter to diagnose me because I'm sure it could be hundreds of things and YANMD, etc.

What I do know is I need to see a doctor ASAP, probably get blood drawn, and get whatever other vital tests/checks/scans. Do I have to find a doctor and make an appt? Won't that take a few days? Should I visit an urgent-care clinic? Are those places legit? What about the ER - are my problems big enough for that? I seriously have no clue. I really don't want to wait any longer/wait out the weekend since I've been waiting out the week as it is.

I'm considering just leaving work early to find some medical help asap but have no clue where to turn or if that's appropriate given my symptoms.
posted by windbox to Health & Fitness (24 answers total)
Should I visit an urgent-care clinic? Are those places legit?

Yes and yes.
posted by desjardins at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2011

Yes! Leave and go to an urgent care center right now!
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on September 23, 2011

Yep, urgent care is made for these kinds of situations (urgent but not life-threatening). They are easy to locate, generally fairly quick to get in and usually fairly cost-effective.
posted by goggie at 6:24 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might also try calling a local doctor and asking if they can fit in a new patient with serious symptoms. Not all places will do this, but some will, and they usually end up being the more efficient places. I did this when I had Lymes disease after my normal doctor wouldn't see me because I was 5 minutes late (and they had an EMPTY waiting room!) but now I have a much better doctor and never have to wait more than 15 minutes, even when I call in that morning.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2011

I know you are not looking for diagnosis, but I logged in specifically to say that based on my own experiences, you have appropriate reasons to seek urgent care immediately. Go.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2011

I'm not sure where in Fairfax you're located, but I've always gotten excellent care at Arlington Urgent Care in Pentagon City, so if that's reasonably close to you, I'd recommend it.
posted by decathecting at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Urgent Care places are totally legit. Also, soon you will exceed the daily dose of Tums and then you'll be pooched.
posted by Straw Cab at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2011

Inova has an urgent care location in Centreville (across the highway from the movie theater). When my husband burned his hand we went there, and they were SO NICE. They even had a nurse evaluate him before he was admitted, so that if he had to go to the ER, he wouldn't have to pay the urgent-care copay. Everyone there was super helpful, and if I was in pain that had me troubled like yours does, I wouldn't hesitate to go there immediately.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2011

there are some smaller ER'/urgent cares all over Fairfax, depending on where you are... also on Inova's site, you can see where the ER's are and what their wait time is... kind of nice if you can sneak into one and get helped immediately...

posted by fozzie33 at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2011

the emergency care centers are on this page too, so you can go to one of those if its closer... just know that if it's serious, they will transfer you to the hospital...
posted by fozzie33 at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2011

if you are close to the herndon/reston location, their seems to be no/small wait there...

1901 Baron Cameron Ave
Reston, VA 20190 (Map)

i've been there before, you can get in and out pretty quick.
posted by fozzie33 at 6:51 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. Fozzie - is that an ER? Or an Urgent Care center? I can't find on the site what kind of insurance they take.
posted by windbox at 6:59 AM on September 23, 2011

Have you been taking a lot of ibuprofen, asprin, or aleve? If so, stop now, they can mess with your stomach.
posted by anaelith at 7:09 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: I took two aleve last night before the pain started but that's it.

For what it's worth, the pain has almost completely subsided. Is it still appropriate to go in to urgent care for the other symptoms?

Sorry if these questions seem so neurotic, I'm very used to doctors sort of rolling their eyes at me and acting like I'm wasting their time and mine, or like my symptoms aren't big enough. I never know. Thanks all.
posted by windbox at 7:17 AM on September 23, 2011

Is it still appropriate to go in to urgent care for the other symptoms?

It's still appropriate to go to urgent care for the previous pain. Screw doctors rolling their eyes at you, it's your body and not theirs. Nobody can tell you whether your symptoms are big enough except doctors. Do the best you can to figure out what was happening before; without investigation and (if suitable) treatment it's more likely to recur.
posted by penduluum at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

No doctor worth his diploma is rolling his eyes for not having to clean up a mess. People tend to forget that.
posted by Namlit at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2011

If it makes you feel more confident about it, go to a hospital that advertises having an urgent care clinic attached to its ER. It's basically for exactly what you're talking about: when you need to see a doctor about an issue on short notice that isn't strictly a life-threatening emergency.

What I do know is I need to see a doctor ASAP, probably get blood drawn, and get whatever other vital tests/checks/scans.

Keep in mind that a doctor probably isn't going to run all of those tests, outside of double checking your reported symptoms.
posted by deanc at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2011

My guess is that if you go in when the symptoms have subsided, they'll run some basic tests for stomach ulcers (which isn't unreasonable), but I'm not sure what else they would probably do for you. That's not to discourage you from going in, but you should set your expectations at a reasonable level.

If you have insurance, you should really see about getting a regular doctor who you can go to every few weeks, and work the issue out with. It's very difficult to solve intermittent / chronic issues through repeated trips to Prompt Care or the ER. If you're in pain, by all means go, but I suspect the solution that will work best in the long run is to contact your insurance company and get a list of doctors in your area, then call them up and see if any are accepting new patients and can get you an appointment early next week.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:08 AM on September 23, 2011

Please still go. Not to alarm you, and IMNYD, but your symptoms sound similar to what Mr. Arkham went through before his appendix burst....including occasionally feeling better, then worse. (We wound up an an Inova Urgent Care, actually.)
posted by JoanArkham at 8:24 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

My experiences at urgent care places have been great, and they were able to do X-rays, blood tests, all kinds of stuff right there--very handy and no waiting. I would go there first.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2011

uh, I went to teh ER with those symptoms and ended up in the oncology ward for 7 days in an isolation room because I had severely low white blood cells (which is why I seemed to be sick forever and ever...). Just go somewhere. If you can't find and urgent care place just go to the ER.

In addition to my own issues (which happened when I was 25), this guy my friend has been dating (also a 20something) went to the hospital vomiting and nausea and they found out he has lymphoma.

Just freaking go and then dance on out of there if they tell you its nothing.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:07 PM on September 23, 2011

Urgent care is usually good for anything that can be taken care of with blood work and x-rays alone, such as cold symptoms, flu symptoms, coughs, sprains/bruises or minor broken bones, minor wounds and infections (such as those that need stitches or abscesses that need draining, UTIs, sore throats, rashes, etc.).

Going to the ER is better for anything that might require the care of a specialist or more advanced studies such as CT scans or ultrasounds, or that may require admission to the hospital (badly broken bones, stroke symptoms, heart attack symptoms/any chest pain, abdominal pain, severe headaches, shortness of breath, allergic reactions involving more than just a rash, and many more!). You should also go to an ER if you have other medical problems that could complicate your care, such as diabetes, high blood pressure/cholesterol, etc.

I hope that provides a bit of clarity. IANYD. For your lingering flu symptoms, I would have said urgent care is fine. For searing abdominal pain, an ER is a better choice. Although it might be something more benign like gastritis or reflux, it could also be more serious, and the ER can figure out if you need more tests for it or not. If you choose to go to an urgent care they can always punt you over to the ER if they deem it necessary, but you'll generally be seeing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant (or a family physician). To see a board certified emergency physician, you usually need to go to the ER, although we staff urgent cares from time to time.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:11 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

p.s. given you said your pain has resolved, I don't think you need the ER currently unless it worsens again or you develop other new symptoms. the protocol I mentioned above was as an example to you for future medical care.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:13 PM on September 23, 2011

Urgent cares take all sorts of insurance. Your copay might be a litter higher than a normal doctor's visit but cheaper than the ER.

Arlington Urgent Care is good.

Go early.
posted by k8t at 5:26 AM on September 26, 2011

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