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7 Symptoms to Look Out For and See a Doctor About

Many of us spend our time working, running after kids, and/or taking care of others. We don’t let a little sickness slow us down. Runny nose? Blow it. Stomach pain? Take an antacid.

We are great at pushing through our symptoms, but there are some signs we shouldn’t ignore. If you have any of these seven symptoms, it’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider, as they could be a sign of something more serious.


1. High or prolonged fever

Could be a sign of: Infection, inflammatory conditions, or side effects from certain medications

Is it warm in here, or is it just me?

A fever is an increase in body temperature above the normal average of 98.6°F. The most common cause of fever is an infection such as a cold or stomach bug. Unless you’re an infant or toddler, a slight fever is usually nothing to worry about.

If you have a fever that lasts for more than a few days or is above 103°F, however, get yourself to the doctor. Even if your temperature is below 103°F, it’s a good idea to see your doctor if you also have any of the other symptoms on this list.

Not sure if you have a fever? Take a quick trip to the drugstore and pick up a thermometer so you can keep track of your temperature. Knowledge is power!


2. Abdominal pain

Could be a sign of: Gallstones, appendicitis, digestive conditions, or kidney infection

When the pain in your stomach is more than just the aftermath of eating a burrito, it might be time to seek medical attention.

Medical professionals break down abdominal pain into two types: acute and chronic. Acute abdominal pain is pain that comes on suddenly and is severe, while chronic abdominal pain is less severe and longer-lasting. Severe abdominal pain causes most people to seek help because it’s very clear that there is something wrong. Chronic pain often goes ignored, but can be just as serious.

The location of the pain can help tell your healthcare provider what the problem is and will give them an idea of what tests to order, should you need any. Let your doctor know if your abdominal pain is focused on one area, or if it moves around.

If you’re experiencing abdominal pain, and the pain is severe or has been going on for awhile, it’s a good idea to get yourself checked out. Trust your gut!


3. Unexplained weight loss

Could be a sign of: Overactive thyroid, liver disease, or diabetes

While weight loss related to a celebrity fad diet is normal (but usually temporary), unexplained weight loss is a cause for concern.

According to Cleveland Clinic, weight loss of 10 pounds or more (or 5% of body weight) over a period of 6 to 12 months is “unexplained” if the person is not trying to lose weight. Unexplained weight loss is most common in older people and those who have certain conditions such as digestive disorders and cancer. Throat and mouth conditions can also cause weight loss if they interfere with the amount or types of food someone can eat.

Our weight naturally goes up and down throughout the year, but dropping pounds without trying is a red flag. See a doctor if you unexpectedly lose significant weight.


4. Chest pain

Could be a sign of: Heart attack, lung conditions, chest inflammation, or digestive conditions

A night of binge-watching Netflix might be enough to cure a broken heart, but how do you know when chest pain is serious?

While only 20% of the millions of people who go to the emergency room for chest pain every year are actually having a heart attack, it’s not a symptom that you should take lightly.

Chest pain can also be caused by a blood clot in the lungs or a tear in the aorta, a large artery of the heart.

If you have chest pain along with jaw or back pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or chest pressure or tightness, stop searching the web for medical opinions and go get a real one.

5. Cold symptoms that won’t let up

Could be a sign of: Flu, sinus infection, or pneumonia

When you were younger, having a cold meant staying home from school, eating warm bowls of chicken soup, and laying on the couch all day while watching your favorite cartoons. Now that you’re an adult, you probably barely slow down enough to realize that you have a cold; it’s just an inconvenience that you have to wait out. But what happens when the common cold doesn’t go away?

If you don’t give your body the rest it needs to fight off the infection that’s causing your cold, it will take longer for you to heal. That cold could also turn into an ear or sinus infection.

In some cases, what you think is a bad cold is actually the flu. The only way to tell the difference between the cold and the flu is by getting tested.

If you have a cold, take some time to recover so it doesn’t turn into something serious. If you think that you have an infection, schedule a visit with your doctor to get to the bottom of it. Either way, remember to get plenty of rest.


6. Changes in bowel habits

Could be a sign of: Food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or bowel cancer

Please excuse the potty talk; this is an important topic! The embarrassment of discussing bowel habits can keep people from seeking help when they need it.

Our stool (AKA poop) can tell us a lot about our health. Changes in the frequency or consistency of our bowel movements can signal a problem. Diarrhea (watery stool) can be a symptom of infection or a digestive condition. Constipation (infrequent, hard-to-pass stool) can also be a sign of a digestive condition or potential blockage. If you have blood in your stool, you should seek medical attention right away.

We all experience digestive discomfort from time to time, but chronic and severe symptoms are no joke. Your doctor probably talks about poop on a daily basis, so there is no need to be ashamed of openly discussing your bowel habits.


7. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Could be a sign of: Asthma, COPD, bronchitis, or allergic reaction

Do you ever need to stop and catch your breath? While it’s normal to breathe heavily during a hard workout, in the midst of a high-stress situation, or right after getting exciting news, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing outside of these situations can be a serious symptom.

Our breathing rate controls the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies. We may breathe faster or slower in response to our oxygen needs. Certain lung conditions can make it harder for our bodies to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This can lead to fast, deep breaths.

An allergic reaction that causes the throat to swell can lead to trouble breathing and shortness of breath. Seek medical help right away if you are having difficulty breathing and have a history of anaphylaxis.

Are you experiencing shortness of breath? Breathe easy knowing that your healthcare provider can help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

While these seven symptoms are not always indicators of a serious condition, severe or long-lasting symptoms can be a warning sign. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to get off the computer and on the phone with your doctor.

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