Healthwise Self-Care Checklist: Do I Need to Go to the Doctor?

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For some minor health problems, you may not be sure whether to seek care, try self-care at home, or wait to see if the problem goes away. You can ask yourself a few questions and use a 4-step process to help you decide what action to take.

How can you make a plan for taking action?

These steps can help you make a plan for taking action.

  1. Observe the problem.
    • When did it start? What are the symptoms?
    • If you have pain, is it a dull ache or stabbing pain? Is it constant, or does it go away and come back? Is it related to certain movements or activities?
    • Measure your vital signs: temperature, pulse, breaths (respiration rate), and blood pressure.
    • Think back:
      • Have you had this problem before?
      • What did you do for it?
      • Have there been any recent changes in your life (such as stress, medicines, food, exercise)?
      • Does anyone else at home or work have these symptoms?
    • How concerned are you about the problem?
  2. Learn more about it.
    • Check the Healthwise Knowledgebase.
    • What do other articles or books say about the problem?
    • Do you have a helpline you can call? Do you have a primary care doctor you can contact?
    • What advice or opinions have other people (lay or professional) offered to you?
  3. Make an action plan.
    • What do you think is wrong?
    • How soon do you think you need to act?
    • What have you decided to do about it? Do you need to act at all?
  4. Evaluate your progress.
    • Are you getting better or worse?
    • Do you still have any concerns?


Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.