self diagnosis

When Should You Self Diagnose?

Our busy lifestyles, coupled with the increasing pressure on the NHS now places more importance on the need to self-care. It’s not always easy to find the time to go to the doctors and you can often be faced with long waiting times. In order to effectively self care, you first need to ascertain what is wrong by correctly self-diagnosing. This can be difficult, especially when you are displaying multiple symptoms or experiencing an illness for the first time. So when should you self diagnose? And how can you be sure you are reading and interpreting your symptoms correctly?


In some instances, it is relatively easy to self diagnose if you are suffering from a common ailment or have experienced a particular illness before. Good examples include the common cold, head lice, cuts and bruises, headaches and coughs.


But what about when your symptoms are a little less common?


There is so much information on health issues available on the web nowadays. However, it’s important to exercise caution here and only access reputable sources so you can be sure that you can trust what you are reading online. Try to avoid reading other people’s stories and experiences, which may end up being entirely unrelated to your own health problems. This can often have a detrimental effect, causing you unnecessary stress and anxiety over something that may not even exist. In worse case scenarios, it can even result in misdiagnosis.


NHS Choices provides a Symptom Checker that enables you to select the area of your body that you are having problems with. It will then walk you through a number of common symptoms related to that particular area, giving you the option to select yes or no. It is then able to advise on what you need to do next. This may include making an appointment with your GP, visiting your pharmacist, going to hospital or self-caring.


If you are at all uncertain about what is wrong with you, it is important not to guess and hope for the best. Instead, you should seek medical advice from your GP or pharmacist before buying over the counter medication or taking pain killers. Taking medication under the wrong circumstances can result in it being less effective when you really need it.


Occasionally, you may feel the symptom checker does not quite get to the root of the issue – after all health conditions and ailments can be complex. In this instance, you should seek further advice from your pharmacist or make a GP appointment.


Other methods available that can help you correctly self-diagnose include calling NHS 111. Instead of going online and accessing the information yourself, you can call and speak to a nurse or other medical professional who will ask you about your symptoms. This can be a better option if your symptoms are more complex. For more advice about when to use NHS 111 please visit the Richmond GP out of hours blog.


If you need a GP out of hours in East Berkshire in the evening, or at weekends, please visit the out of hours health services section of our website.