WHEN should I speak to a GP (DOCTOR)?

As a pharmacist, we are often referring patients to see a GP, so I thought it was a GREAT opportunity to break down;

-when to see a GP

-when to visit the emergency room (ER)

-when to call 000

I am very passionate about enhancing health literacy, and this is an example of something that I hope will be helpful!

I also believe in the rapport and connection that having a relationship with your GP can have, and how it can increase your comfort and confidence about speaking to them about personal matters. I also feel that if you know them, they are BEST placed to notice any changes in your mental health or cognition, where someone who did not know your baseline may not be able to identify as easily.

Firstly, in Australia you can see a General Practitioner who will either bulk bill, or is a private practice doctor or offers mixed billing. This determines whether you will have an out-of-pocket gap payment and each medical practice and clinician may have different ways in which they bill you. It is always best to ask around to find out what suits you and your family best!

Below is a list of COMMON reasons that we as pharmacists would refer patients to a GP;

  1. If you have symptoms that are not resolving on their own; with medication whether OTC (over-the-counter) or prescription and they are lingering.

Depending on WHAT those symptoms were, the time frame will differ. For e.g. hayfever may benefit from trialling OTC options for a few days to see if you are getting relief, compared to an excruciating headache where you can’t open your eyes that keeps coming back would warrant seeing your GP straight away.

  1. If symptoms are getting worse


4.  Any child less than 2 or if older than 65 that has suspicious symptoms, lingering symptoms, or could potentially have an interaction with over the counter medication options. If in doubt, we would always refer to the GP for a FULL diagnosis and consult.


5. Going further into children; if you know deep within your gut that something isn’t quite right, then I would recommend that you trust that instinct and investigate further. If they are not ‘themselves’, have a rash that looks suspicious with a fever (over 38 degrees Celsius), if a bite or rash is getting bigger and travelling further along the body, sharp pains, if they cannot keep fluids down, if they are having trouble with their vision, hallucinations, really lethargic, any signs of a fracture or concussion, looking for pain, not being able to weight bare; (would need to do an X-ray and/or CT scan.


If you are concerned with the growth of your baby, having any issues with breastfeeding, solid feeding your baby, allergy concerns, nappy rash that is not resolving or weeping/oozing, then your GP is a wealth of information.


My motto is always; if in doubt, check it out!


  1. If you have other medical conditions; it can be a good opportunity to make sure that symptoms are not related to a worsening condition, or that treatment does not interfere with the other condition


7. If you feel like your mental health is declining; how you are feeling, mood, anxiety, depression…then a GP is a brilliant FIRST line of help to chat about getting a mental health care plan and they can refer you to wherever you need and what they feel is best for you.

With parenting; if you feel like you are not coping, low mood, more irritable, signs of PND…then my advice is ALWAYS to chat with your GP as the first port of call.


They are excellent at screening, and referring you to where you need.


Make sure you are completely honest and transparent so they know the FULL picture of what it is that you are experiencing. If you want to bring a support person if that would help you…then that may help you start this conversation.

Please don’t feel embarrassed about any symptoms or conditions; they are non-judgemental, private and confidential…and have your optimum health outcome in mind always!

It may help to bring a list of questions that you have, bring any blood test results, any previous medical histories that may be relevant for them.

They are great when you find out that you are pregnant; they can review you, order any blood tests that are needed, refer you to an OB (obstetrician) and help guide you through the start of the parenthood journey!


  1. All things to do with vaccinations; ensuring they are up-to-date, if you are travelling and need the appropriate immunisations for both childhood and adult immunisations.


  1. If you have had a fall; especially elderly people (this certainly could warrant a trip to the emergency department). However, a GP can certainly follow up on your recovery and to help minimise fall risk occurring again.


  1. If after an injury, it is not getting better; the GP can order X-rays and scans to make sure there is no fracture or serious damage.


  1. Fever (over 38 degrees)


  1. Chronic conditions; the GP can ensure that all of your levels are being managed and any help that you may require they can facilitate that.


E.g. if you have diabetes; they can ensure that you are having your eyes checked by an optometrist and ophthalmologist, your kidneys checked from a nephrologist, feet checked from a podiatrist, refer you to an Accredited Practicing Dietician to look after your nutrition goals (and your pharmacist can help with your medication and dosing queries)


  1. It is important to let the doctor know if you have any new symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, fatigue…and to give them an idea of;


-when it started?

-how did it develop?

-or letting them anything that makes it better or worse


  1. Wound care, family planning, referrals, prescription medication, women’s health (so endometriosis, perimenopause, menopause, STD and cervical cancer screening, pap smears) men’s health (prostate, erectile dysfunction concerns, hair loss, weight changes, mental health…these are all excellent reasons to see your GP!


  1. If you have Gastro, then see your GP if you have a fever, severe abdominal pain, blood in diarrhoea or any signs of dehydration; such as thirst or reduced amount of urine/dry mouth/sunken eyes or dizziness.


Most gastro illnesses pass within 2-3 days, but severe and longstanding cases may require antibiotics depending on what is presenting…so do see you GP if you have any concerns about yourself or little one


  1. With a cold, according to healthdirect.gov.au if you or child have chronic medical conditions for example asthma or diabetes, then it is important to see your GP as a cold can make these conditions escalate…


And they have listed the following symptoms if you have a cold to see your doctor;


-you can’t or won’t drink fluids

-you vomit frequently and/or are unable to drink fluids

-you have an intense headache

-you are pale and feel sleepy

-you have chest pain

-your symptoms have lasted longer than 10 days

-you have breathing difficulties

-you have a rash with fever

-you are worried


  1. Conjunctivitis…now this can be caused by a bacterial infection, a viral infection, an allergy or irritants such as dust or chemicals.


Unless you are a trained professional, it is highly unlikely that you will know what the cause is and therefore the treatment. It is important to get it checked out, especially if it’s a child or someone who has another condition or is immunocompromised.

Now according to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, it is important to see a doctor if your child’s conjunctivitis isn’t getting better after 2 days… or if they have;

-severe pain…problems with vision/eyesight, increased swelling/redness/tenderness in the eyelids and around the eye…Is generally unwell and has a fever…a persistent white spot in the cornea.


  1. Dehydration…this is another one that often looks innocuous or benign…but is an important one to not ignore. It can be a result of gastro, strenuous exercise especially in hot weather, with a fever, drinking too much alcohol, being on say diuretics…and not drinking enough water; especially in young children if they are not drinking or feeding, then it is important to take them to your GP or emergency room.

They can be breathing very fast, be confused, have a fever, little to no urine, thirsty, dry mouth, sunken eyes.

This is one that can escalate and affects so many organ systems; do not to delay if in doubt


In an AFTER HOURS situation, HEALTH DIRECT operates 24/7…and a Registered Nurse talks about your symptoms, and after hours they may offer a call back or video call from a GP.

Their number is 1800 022 222…or visit www.healthdirect.gov.au  for more information.

Their website also has a search functionality where you can find a specific health provider, and set all of your preferences and it searches the most appropriate for you; which is a time saving tool!

”The Wholesome Doctor” is a great resource if you use social media; Dr Preeya Alexander is a GP and often jumps on with latest information about health topics or trending topics and she is quite captivating!

Now, there are situations where it is VITAL to go to the EMERGENCY ROOM or to call 000 for an ambulance depending on who/what/where/why.

If you’re not entirely sure after hours if you should go to the ER, then call the health direct number and get their advice.

In the following situations according to HEALTH DIRECT it is vital to go to the Emergency Department;

-injuries from accidents, physical assaults or falls

-heart attack and stroke

-severe pain

-problems with breathing or bleeding

-broken bones

-loss of consciousness

-worsening of a serious illness

-drug overdoses or poisoning

-allergic reactions

-pregnancy complications

-mental illness


Ambulance Service of NSW advises calling 000 if any of these appear:

-chest pain or tightness

-sudden onset of weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg

-breathing difficulties


-uncontrollable bleeding

-sudden collapse or unexplained fall

-unexplained fitting in adults

-severe burns especially in young children


Another important number to have on hand in a serious case for mental health conditions is LIFELINE which is 13 11 14

And also the Poisons Information Centre 13 11 26

Store them in your phone and keep them on your fridge!


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