Sometimes when you get sick, you know you need a health care provider’s help. When your fever is extremely high, you are experiencing severe discomfort or you just know something is definitely wrong, you probably don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor’s office or head straight to the hospital.
However, there are other times when you get sick, and you aren’t sure if you need any kind of medical support. Maybe you have a low-grade fever or strange-but-manageable symptoms, and you aren’t quite sure what’s wrong but you don’t exactly feel right. Do you actually need to talk to a health care provider, or should you just wait and see what happens?
So many illnesses include symptoms like body aches, a stuffy nose, digestive trouble and the like. Many diseases that cause these problems are minor, and the body will be able to recover on its own in time. However, there are a few other symptoms you should watch for, which are indicative of a serious issue that really does require your doctor’s attention. Signs of a severe problem include:
Sudden weight loss. Even if you are on a diet, a sudden drop in weight is a serious concern. If your clothing fits too loose or the number on the scale plummets in a matter of days, you need to make a doctor’s appointment.
Shortness of breath. Having stuffed-up sinuses is one thing, but if you can’t seem to catch your breath or feel consistently short of oxygen, you likely need medical attention ASAP.
Severe pain. Minor illnesses might make your muscles and joints hurt, but if your pain becomes debilitating — like you can’t focus on anything other than the pain sensation — you could have a life-threatening problem.
Blood where it shouldn’t be. Blood shouldn’t be coming out with your urine or stool, and it shouldn’t seep from your gums or eyes, either. Blood where it shouldn’t be is a medical red flag.
Strange symptoms after a procedure. Finally, you should be on the lookout for any changes to your health after you undergo any kind of medical procedure, like a change in medication or surgery. You should report any unexpected developments to your provider.
As you are evaluating the severity of your disease, you should think about how your health issue could impact your lifestyle. In particular, if your illness is going to prevent you from working for the next few days (or weeks or months) you probably do want to spend some time in a doctor’s office or at least in consultation with a qualified health care professional. At the very least, a provider can write you a doctor’s note to prove to your employer that you are ailing; at the most, providers might be able to help speed up your recovery, so you can get back to your regular life sooner.
Unless you are experiencing a true health emergency — in which case, you should go to the hospital immediately — you might not need to bother visiting a doctor’s office in person. Telehealth solutions allow you to connect with a qualified health care provider over the web, which is much more convenient and affordable than traditional health services. An online provider from a service like Everyday Doctor can help diagnose your issue and guide you toward treatment, even if that treatment is some kind of in-person testing or hands-on care. Generally, telehealth patients find that turning to this solution first saves them time and headache over going straight to their doctor’s office.
As tempting as it might be to enter your symptoms an online diagnosis tool like WebMD, the truth is that the internet is not the best source of health-related advice. Unlike a trained and experienced health care provider, Google doesn’t know your unique health history and circumstances; most often, you will receive the worst possible diagnosis, which isn’t good for your stress levels and isn’t particularly helpful to your doctor, either. If you are the type to need a diagnosis for your disease, you should use telehealth or make a doctor’s appointment to get more realistic health information from a true professional.
You might not need to visit a doctor, but that doesn’t mean that getting an opinion from a knowledgeable and skilled health care provider won’t help you recover faster and better than you would otherwise. If you are experiencing any symptom that makes you uncomfortable, it is better to be safe than sorry and talk to a health care expert — even if you only talk over the web.