Stay Out of Hospital ERs, Urgent Care Centers

By Eva Briggs

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to keep yourself out of the emergency room or urgent care. The idea is to reduce the chance that you will come to a place with sick individuals, as well as to reduce the chance of spreading disease. Here are some tips to accomplish this.

• If your problem is not a life-threatening emergency, you can call your primary doctor. Or try telehealth, as many doctor’s offices and urgent cares offer virtual visits. For life threatening emergencies, call 911 and get to an emergency room.

• Check whether you have all of your medications. Don’t forget about the medicines you don’t use every day. As spring rolls on, pollen counts will rise, triggering allergies and asthma. Obtain all your allergy medicines or inhalers now, before you need them. Do you suffer from migraines, gout or other maladies that require as intermittent treatments? If yes, keep the necessary medicine on hand. Contact your primary care provider now before the need arises.

• Wear appropriate protective gear for any sports. Even if you are just in your yard, wear helmets and eye protection for bicycling, scootering, and 4-wheeling. Wear eye protection when operating tools.

• Protect yourself from ticks and know what to do if you discover a tick bite. Reduce the chance ticks will attach with long sleeves, insect repellant, and treating clothing with permethrin.

• Check for ticks as soon as you come inside. If you discover an attached tick, remove it using fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool such as a Tick Twister. If the head remains attached to your skin and you cannot easily remove it, there is no need to panic. And no need to attempt to dig it out by gouging into your skin. The head itself is unlikely to spread tick borne disease. It’s in the most superficial layer of skin and will work its way out over a few days. You can apply warm compresses to hasten the process. A small area of redness, up to one inch across, at the site of the tick bite is typical. If the tick has been attached for longer than 24 hours and is engorged, you might be a candidate for a dose of antibiotics (doxycycline) to reduce the chance of acquiring Lyme disease. Try calling your primary care doctor first, as it may save you a visit to the urgent care. You still need to watch for signs of tick-borne illness such as rash, fever and joint pain. Often it is the tick that you never discovered that transmits tick-borne illness. Again, call your doctor if these symptoms develop. Most labs are not analyzing ticks for disease currently because their resources are focused on COVID-19. If you feel that you must have your tick analyzed, place it in a plastic baggie and freeze for future submission.

• Give your animals space. They are not used to having you and your children home all day. At the urgent care we have seen an uptick in animal bites and scratches since stay-at-home orders began. Supervise your children around your pets.

• Be mindful of what you do if you are drinking or using recreational drugs. Don’t ride a bike, climb a ladder, use sharp implements, or operate power tools if your mind is altered.

• Remember that many minor illnesses and injuries can be treated remotely by a phone call to your doctor or by urgent care telehealth. Your provider can order labs (such as a urinalysis and culture for a possible urinary tract infection) or X-rays (for a sprained ankle or similar injury). This could keep you out of the urgent care or emergency room.

Stay safe out there!

Eva Briggs is a medical doctor who works at two urgent care centers in the Syracuse region.

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