Skip to main content
By Kimberly Adler-Morelli

Some medical conditions, like cancer or heart disease, need immediate and thorough treatment. But what about those irritating everyday health problems? Colds. Rashes. Earaches. Conditions like this can usually be treated at home.

However, if they worsen or don’t go away, it might be best to get professional treatment. So where do you go to get relief from some common pesky health issues? You have options.

The nagging cough

Most of us reach for the cough drops when we have a cough that lasts more than a day or two. That can do the trick much of the time. But what if the cough gets worse or doesn’t go away?

If your cough hangs on after a week or so, it might be something a little more serious. When over-the-counter treatments aren’t working and you can’t sleep because you’re hacking, your best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor (also called a primary care provider, or PCP).

Cough going from annoying to serious very quickly? If you can’t get an appointment to see your PCP soon, try an urgent care clinic. They don’t require an appointment and can treat that irritating cough and what’s causing it.

Sabrina Whitehurst, MD, an OB-GYN and director of women’s health for Geisinger’s western region, talks with a patient.

Oh, my aching back!

You tried to move a heavy dresser or raked too many piles of leaves. Now your back is not happy with you. So should you treat it at home or see a doctor?

Most back pain gets better after home treatment. Use over-the-counter medications (ibuprofen or naproxen sodium) and heat, and keep moving as much as you can tolerate.

But if you still have pain after a few weeks and it’s not improving, see your PCP. You may have a bigger problem than just a strain. Your doctor can try other treatments and get you on the mend.

Sometimes back pain is serious and needs immediate attention. Get care right away if the pain is severe and caused by a fall or injury. Try an urgent care clinic or even an emergency room if the pain is unbearable.

The best way to deal with back pain, of course, is to prevent it in the first place. Check out this article on the right way to bend over.

Feeling the burn

At the gym, feeling the burn is great. In the bathroom? Not so much. A burning sensation when you pee — and having to go constantly — probably means a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Can this be treated at home? Yes and no. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to knock out those burn-inducing bacteria. But you can make yourself a little more comfortable while you’re scheduling an appointment.

Some things you can do to ease a UTI:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid acidic drinks, like coffee, alcohol and citrus-based beverages
  • Use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your abdomen to relieve the pain

Over-the-counter medications can also help with the burning and urgency.

You may think you have your UTI under control with home treatment, but it’s best to see your doctor. Left untreated, the infection could come back and possibly damage your kidneys or lead to sepsis, a serious infection that can be life-threatening.

There’s no need to go to the ER for a urinary tract infection. Make that appointment with your doctor, or visit an urgent care clinic, and you’ll be feeling better soon. A virtual visit to your PCP or urgent care works, too. The provider can prescribe medications just like at an in-person visit — and you don’t even have to get off the couch.

Trust your body

Your PCP can treat most common conditions, but if your body tells you to get care quickly, urgent and convenient care clinics are the way to go. Save the ER for true emergencies, like chest pains, trouble breathing and serious injury.

UTI, STD, unexplained bleeding or early pregnancy issues?

Illustration of an medical examination room.

The team at Women’s Walk-In Care at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville is here for you. No appointment needed. Call 866-932-0623 or visit geisinger.org/walkin to find out more.
A woman enters a public restrooms.

Is it a UTI or something else?

Check out this article on overactive bladder.


The wellness you need, in a style you’ll love — delivered.

Sign up to have PA Health sent to your mailbox or inbox 4 times a year, for free.