DIY or Doctor Visit? How to Treat Common Medical Ailments

In 2016, an estimated 86% of adults reported having a go-to place to receive medical care, like a dedicated physician. However, there are some cases where people will try and deal with their medical problems at home instead of seeking professional care. While this can be suitable for some problems, it’s important to know when to head in for a doctor’s visit; some problems can escalate quickly if the proper treatment isn’t received.

Many minor issues can be solved at home effectively. However, your specific case may be different. To help ensure that you get the treatment you need, here is how you can care for the most common ailments at home, as well as when you should contact make a local doctor appointment.

Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, ordinarily known as pink eye, is a common healthcare problem that many people contract every year. Most people know what pink eye looks like — and in many instances, your doctor will even be able to diagnose this condition without an office visit. Manifesting as inflamed blood vessels in your eye, pink eye is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. To treat this condition at home, you can do the following:

  • Apply a hot or cold compress to the eye several times throughout the day.
  • Artificial tears can be used to help clean the eye and reduce irritation and inflammation.
  • Clean the eyelid gently throughout the day with a clean cloth and water.
  • If you wear contacts, it’s advised to forgo them until the condition is treated. If your contacts are disposable, throw out any that you have worn to prevent reinfecting your eye after healing.

Because pink eye is usually caused by a virus, the best thing you can do is let it run its course, which usually lasts about two to three weeks. If your condition is caused by allergic conjunctivitis, you may be advised to use eye drops designed specifically for allergies.

While most cases of pink eye are easy to clear up at home, there are some instances where a local doctor appointment is needed. For instance, if your symptoms aren’t improving or if they are getting worse, you should see your doctor. Additionally, if you’re experiencing increased sensitivity to light, blurred vision, or pain in your eyes, call your eye doctor immediately. In severe cases, your doctor may take a sample of liquid from your eye to help determine the type and cause of the infection.


Millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies every year and there is a myriad of triggers that can cause a reaction. Common symptoms usually include runny nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes. However, some allergies can aggravate asthma suffers and cause a more severe reaction. Typically, allergies can usually be managed at home with over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays. While seasonal allergies are often more of a nuisance than a severe health condition, there are some instances where you’ll need to make a local doctor appointment.

See a doctor immediately if your allergies are creating problems such as:

  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Severe congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Asthma flareups
  • Chest tightness
  • Frequent wheezing or coughing

Seasonal allergies aside, anaphylaxis (though rare) is a serious and potentially fatal reaction to food, insect stings, or medications. A reaction like this impacts many different parts of the body and symptoms can include a severe drop in blood pressure, swelling of the throat and tongue, hives, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness. If a reaction like this begins, immediate assistance is needed. Your best bet is to call 911 for an ambulance.

During your local doctor appointment, a specialist can conduct allergy testing to help identify what exactly is causing the reaction. This will help them pinpoint the best type of treatment, as well as inform you of what you need to avoid. Once you know what you’re allergic to, it will be easier to plan ahead for potential flareups. For instance, if you’re particularly sensitive to ragweed pollen or are severely allergic to shellfish, you can start planning ahead of time to help mitigate the reaction.


Migraines are a painful problem that plagues roughly 12% of people in the United States. The most common symptoms of migraines include a debilitating throbbing pain on one side of the head. Sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting can also accompany a migraine. While setting up a local doctor appointment is encouraged, there are a few ways to help mitigate this condition at home.

  • Place an ice pack over your neck, forehead, or scalp to help relieve migraine pain.
  • When a migraine sets in, lay down in a dark and quiet room until the pain passes.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help mitigate the pain. However, these shouldn’t be relied on consistently or taken frequently.
  • Some people also find relief from drinking a caffeinated beverage at the first sign of a migraine.
  • Consuming foods high in magnesium can also help mitigate the frequency of migraines.
  • Regular exercise or yoga during periods where you’re not experiencing a migraine can also help prevent them from occurring as regularly.

The above steps can offer some relief or minor prevention. But if your migraines are controlling you more than you are controlling them, you may need to make a local doctor appointment in order to get the best relief. While it may sound surprising, Botox is currently the only FDA approved treatment for chronic migraines. If you’re experiencing 15 or more migraines every month, Botox treatment is highly encouraged to help prevent and manage this painful condition.

Neck and Back Pain

Usually, the first thing you should do when dealing with back or neck pain is to identify what caused it and stop doing it. For instance, if sitting for long periods at your desk is causing pain and stiffness, consider implementing regular breaks to help stretch your muscles. If the pain is mild, a few other at-home remedies can include:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or NSAID pain relievers can be helpful for temporary relief.
  • Light exercise can be used to help relieve mild pain, and prevent stiffness. Simple yoga routines used daily are a good way to integrate this treatment into your day-to-day.
  • Massages can also be used to help increase blood flow to the painful areas and relieve tension pain.

But if you’re experiencing severe pain, or if you are becoming too dependant on these medications to get through your day, you should consider making a local doctor appointment as soon as possible. In some cases, visiting a chiropractor can even help manage migraines and headaches, as well as allowing you to get a better night’s sleep. This improvement can make it easier for your body to naturally heal itself, especially if you’ve been unable to sleep well due to pain.

If you’ve been experiencing consistent pain for over a week or have additional symptoms such as fever, nausea, numbness, tingling, or the inability to move your neck or arms, don’t wait for your condition to worsen further. Book an appointment with your doctor or chiropractor to ensure that the condition doesn’t worsen. If left untreated for too long, permanent damage could be done — even with the most well-intentioned at-home aids.

Dental Problems

Dental problems can come in many different forms. Some will require more dental care than others. In general, here is what you can do at home for the most common dental issues.

For mild toothaches, rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food particles that may be causing the pain. If your mouth is swollen, apply a cool compress to the outside. An over-the-counter toothache gel or cream can also be applied to help relieve discomfort. However, if the pain continues, see your dentist immediately.

Tooth grinding is another common problem that can be made worse by anxiety and tension. To help mitigate this at home, try taking steps to relieve anxiety before bed, and possibly begin wearing a mouthguard to further help prevent grinding while you’re asleep. This can also help to relieve TMJ pain and even migraines.

Cavities and cavity-related pain can be managed at home temporarily. However, you will eventually need to see your dentist. Use a saltwater rinse to help disinfect and reduce inflammation. Placing a warm peppermint tea bag against the area can also help reduce pain. Additionally, clove oil can be diluted and dabbed onto the area, or it can be used with water to make a mouth wash.

Lost crowns and fillings can be temporarily “fixed” at home as well. If a filling is lost, fill the gap with an over-the-counter dental cement. While this is only a temporary fix, it will offer relief until you can see your dentist. Similarly, if you’ve lost a crown, try slipping it back into place after coating the inside with dental cement or denture adhesive. This will hold it in place until you can get a professional repair. If you’re unable to fit the crown back on, and are in pain, dab some diluted clove oil onto the area or use an over-the-counter tooth pain relief gel.

Not all problems require emergency care. But if you’re experiencing a fever, severe pain, trouble breathing or swallowing, or pus-filled discharge, schedule a local doctor appointment immediately. In the event that you experience an abscess, rinse your mouth with a medicated mouthwash, but seek professional assistance as soon as possible. If allowed to go untreated an abscess and cause tissue damage and possibly spread to other areas in the body posing an even greater health risk.

Similarly, if the pain you’re experiencing is caused by tooth crowding or your wisdom teeth coming in, a dentist visit will be necessary. An oral surgeon will be able to remove the incoming wisdom teeth or you may want to seek out orthodontic services to address other underlying issues. Your orthodontist may recommend removable clear aligners to straighten your teeth and alleviate a potential source of pain. Both of these treatments must be handled by a professional.

Listen to Your Body

Virtually everyone will experience at least one of these problems throughout the course of their lives — and many will be able to tick off multiple problems on this list. While many of these issues can be treated at home to some extent, it’s important to listen to your body and seek professional attention when necessary. For instance, back pain after a workout isn’t necessarily a sign of a greater problem, so it can usually be remedied at home. However, if the pain is persistent or severe, making a local doctor appointment can help you rule out significant damage.

Dental problems, on the other hand, will almost always require professional intervention and it’s best not to wait until they become too severe. Not only will it cost more to repair, but it can cause additional damage that can put your entire body at risk.

If you’re ever in doubt of how to care for a particular condition, never hesitate to either call your healthcare provider or make a local doctor appointment. It’s better to be on the safe side than to risk letting a problem become more severe.

While the above lists the most common problems facing Americans today, it’s important to know your body and stay up-to-date with all your regular checkups. Set up a local doctor appointment if you haven’t in the past year, as well as a visit to your local dentist and any other specialists you may not have seen in a while. This will help ensure that your body stays as healthy as possible, while also giving you much-needed peace of mind. It’s always better to see your doctor regularly than to wait until you have a significant problem that could have been avoided.