Six years ago, just after arriving in Baltimore for a winter conference, I fell sick with fever and a bad sore throat.
After a night of feeling awful, I went looking for help. I found it at a Minute Clinic in a CVS near the hotel. I was seen right away by a friendly NP who did a rapid strep test, and prescribed me medication. I picked up my medication at the pharmacy there. The visit cost something like $85, and took maybe 30 minutes. They gave me forms to submit to my California insurance. And I was well enough to present my research as planned by day 3 of the conference.
Fast forward to this year. After feeling a bit blah on a Monday evening, I developed a sore throat, headache, and fever overnight.
I figured it was a winter viral pharyngitis, rearranged my schedule, and planned to make it an “easy day.” Usually a low-key day plus a good night’s sleep does the trick for me.
But not with this bug. This one gave me chills, a splitting headache, body aches, a fever of 102, and a sense of serious misery. Plus that awful sore throat. A dose of ibuprofen 400mg would beat back the symptoms a bit, and allow me to eat and sleep. But after about four hours, I’d find myself shivering and feeling horrible again.
And the following day, Wednesday, I felt even worse. I started wondering if maybe I had the flu, or could it be strep throat, since I didn’t have a cough?
I thought about going to the doctor, but I felt so sick and I didn’t want to go through the hassle unless there was a decent chance of benefit.
Because in truth, even though I get my care from a large well-regarded health system that offers online appointment scheduling, a portal to review my outpatient lab results, telephone advice nurses, and other conveniences, I still don’t like going in because it’s a big place and the experience never feels…delightful, shall we say.
I looked through UpToDate online and tried to figure out the likelihood that a doctor’s visit would change management (most adult pharyngitis is viral) but my mind was too fuzzy and so I stayed home in bed.
However, that night my husband said he was starting to get a sore throat. I also spoke to a doctor friend on the phone. She thought my symptoms sounded an awful lot like strep, and urged me to go in and get a rapid strep test. I decided that if I didn’t feel a lot better by the next morning, I’d go in.
I was a little better the next morning (day #3 of my illness) but not a lot. The body aches were better, but I’d developed a killer earache, and it still hurt too much to eat unless I had recently taken ibuprofen. My temperature off ibuprofen remained 101-102.
So I called the phone appointment line, explained my symptoms, and was given an appointment to see my own assigned doctor. (No urgent care clinic available I was told; this health system encourages open access to your own doctors.)
As I had expected, it was a miserable hassle.