Let’s face it; there are only so many hours in the day to accomplish the things we have to do. Between work or school, family obligations, getting the kids to their various activities, and household chores, it can be easy to put things that aren’t part of your daily routine on the back burner—like setting a doctor’s appointment.
Sure, when we are seriously sick or injured, you need to make time to call your doctor. Some pain or illness cannot be ignored. However, when it comes to the “nagging” ailments like a headache or heartburn, we tend to ignore them and assume they’ll go away. Our day is busy enough.
However, a minor issue could become more serious down the road. How do you know if something’s not a big deal or if it signals something more severe?
Look out for indicators to know when it’s time to set up an appointment. Here are a few ailments that might require a doctor’s visit and how to know for sure.
When we get a headache, the first reaction is to reach into the medicine cabinet for some sort of pain reliever. An over-the-counter (OTC) pill and a brief rest might do the trick. However, pain in your head might signal more than your everyday headache. In my own experience, I look for certain signs of this. The Mayo Clinic backs me up, suggesting the following.
Think about your previous headaches. If this one feels worse than normal or they happen frequently, give your doctor a call. Another indicator is if after taking an OTC medication like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen you feel no better. The same goes if you find your headaches are debilitating to the point you cannot function like normal.
Furthermore, seek emergency treatment for a headache if you also experience: confusion, high fever, numbness or paralysis, stiff neck, or trouble with normal motor function.
A sore throat is a pain—literally and figuratively. Every time you swallow or even talk, you feel aching or burning. Usually, a sore throat can be taken care of at home with OTC throat lozenges, sprays or decongestants. Gargling with warm salt water, drinking hot tea or eating soup also make good at-home remedies.
A more severe sore throat is a reason to call your doctor, however. You may have something more serious if you’ve had a fever of more than 101 degrees for more than a couple of days. If you can’t sleep because of your throat (swollen tonsils or adenoids could be blocking it) or you get a rash, get in touch with your doctor right away. These could signal a bacterial infection, which would require antibiotics.
If heartburn is something you’ve come to accept, you might miss the signs of something serious. If you feel it, take your OTC acid reducers and you start to feel better, and it happens less than twice a week, you might muddle along for a while. However, even OTC medications come with risks, so consider natural remedies like those described here.
Still, if your heartburn causes difficulty swallowing, makes you hoarse or causes chest pain, see a physician. You could be dealing with a much more serious matter than heartburn. Any reflux-like symptom that goes on for an extended period of time could indicate esophageal cancer. Better to see a doctor sooner before what seems like a minor issue turns into a severe one. If your day-to-day heartburn relief routine stops working, pick up the phone.
There are too many ailments to list here, but apply the ones above to any pain you experience. If whatever you’re feeling seems worse than normal, or comes with nausea, trouble breathing, or a fever, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. If something feels off with your body, it never hurts to have it checked out. And if you decide to “see if it goes away,” don’t wait too long. Every day you “wait and see” is another day your problems could progress.
If you are someone who avoids taking a lot of medications, you may hesitate to see a doctor. If having natural options for treating pain or other ailments is important to you, make sure you choose a doctor who understands that.
It’s easy to say you’ll get to the doctor, “when you have time,” but no task on your to-do list is more important to your health. You won’t be able to help the people counting on you the most as well if you are injured or sick. So, the next time you’re not sure if your symptoms are worth medical intervention, think about it carefully. Learn to listen to your body and learn the signs of a severe problem.