Various illnesses, diseases, and disorders quite often offer you little “whispers” to tell you something is wrong. Small symptoms can often spell big trouble. Paying attention to minor signs and symptoms can save your life… you just need to be aware, and seek medical attention if necessary, even if it is a relaxing and sunny afternoon.
1. A fever that is persistent
Our family doctors usually advise us to wait for a few days when struck with a fever; causes are usually virus related. A persistent low grade fever, 37.5 to 38.5 C, for longer than a week or two should be investigated… it can indicate anything from a urinary tract infection to tuberculosis. Some underlying cancers can cause prolonged, persistent fevers as well. A higher fever (anything over 38.5 C) may indicate a more serious infection, especially if it is accompanied by chills and shaking, and should be checked by your doctor. There is always the possibility of an existing infection to enter the bloodstream.
2. Shortness of breath
You should be alerted if you notice unusual and sudden wheezing, or shortness of breath… especially if experienced without exertion or without illness. Causes can range from asthma, panic/anxiety attacks, pneumonia, croup (kids), or even a pulmonary embolism. Do not assume that it is nothing… go to the doctor.
3. Sudden or unexplained weight loss
A big change in weight that does not seem to make sense to you according to your habits of daily living should be questioned. Possible causes could be hyperthyroidism, liver disease, cancer, or even depression. Be cautious if you lose 5% of your usual weight in a one month time period, or 10% within a 6-12 month period.
4. Changes in bowel movements
Slight constipation can be common in some people. However, if you are constipated suddenly and also experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, or abdominal pain… go and check it out. Anything causing great discomfort for more than a few days, such as diarrhea, should receive medical attention as well. Causes may be bacterial in origin such as campylobacter or salmonella; or viral / parasitic. In severe cases, colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease may be considered.
5. Changes in mental status
In this category, symptoms such as disorientation, hallucinations, or sudden aggressive behavior may indicate a stroke, low blood sugar (diabetes), or infection. You may also be reacting negatively to any new medication that you are taking.
6. Severe sudden headache
Headaches are a common problem in our lives - but a sudden severe headache may be very serious, especially if you are over 50 years of age. If your headache accompanies other symptoms such as high fever, a stiff neck, numbness, or speech difficulties… you may be having a stroke, an aneurysm, have meningitis or a tumor, or even a concussion.
The moral of the story is to never ignore the little signs that your body sends out to you. Don’t procrastinate, and remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Always consult your doctor with any concerns that you may have.