When Common Ailments Turn Serious


Life is full of bumps and bruises, and even the healthiest among us suffer the occasional headache, sore throat or skin rash. Usually, your immune system resolves these problems with a little time and TLC—perhaps with the help of an over-the-counter remedy.

However, from time to time, you may have symptoms that trigger concern or worry. It doesn’t make sense to live in fear, so here are a few tips for when you should definitely seek medical attention.

General Symptoms That Should Prompt Medical Attention

✚ Sudden onset of severe symptoms, such aspain, fever or bleeding

✚ The problem persists long after you think it should have resolved

✚ Common symptoms are accompanied by additional symptoms (that may not seem to be related), such as a headache with vision disturbances or trouble speaking

✚ Blood when you cough, vomit, urinate or move your bowels

✚ Trouble breathing

Specific Symptoms That Should Prompt Medical Attention

✚ Severe headache, especially if it comes on suddenly or is accompanied by fever, neurological problems or other symptoms

✚ Sore throat with a fever that lasts longer than a week; you have trouble breathing or your sore throat is accompanied by a swollen throat or tongue, stiff neck, rash or drooling; red, sandpaper-like rash on your chest and neck

✚ Cough that persists beyond eight weeks; you’re coughing up thick, greenish-yellow, bloody or pink-tinged phlegm; you’re choking, wheezing, or having trouble swallowing or breathing; your cough is accompanied by a fever

✚ Strong, persistent urge to pee; burning sensation when you urinate; your urine is cloudy or red/pink colored

✚ Sudden, sharp abdominal pain, especially if it’s accompanied by pain in the chest, neck or shoulders; throwing up blood or blood in the stools; a stiff abdomen

✚ Your period lasts longer than seven days or is extremely heavy, (requiring you to change a tampon or pad more frequently than every two hours); you have large clots

✚ Itching, rashes or hives that don’t go away on their own after a few days; a new mole, or a change in an old mole

✚ Chest pain that is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, lightheadedness (call 911—you may be having a heart attack!)

✚ Unintentionally losing 10 pounds or 5 percent of your normal body weight over six to 12 months, especially if accompanied by other symptoms

✚ Marked changes in personality, eating or sleeping patterns; thinking or talking about suicide; substance abuse

✚ Anything that just doesn’t feel right to YOU

This Month’s Action Items

  • Medically Speaking podcasts