Should I see a doctor? It’s a question many people ask. Despite what you may tell yourself, major symptoms and incidents aren’t the only reasons to go see the doctor. Whatever your situation, remember that for many conditions early detection can lead to better outcomes. Read on for 10 telltale signs it’s time to go see the doctor—including when your cough is bad enough to merit a visit.
Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive; above all, go with your gut—if instinct tells you something is wrong, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention.
YOU HAVE A PERSISTENT, HIGH FEVER
A fever is one way your body naturally fights infection. However, if you have a fever above 103˚ Fahrenheit (39.4˚ Celsius) or a fever that lasts more than three days, you should call your doctor. A more serious infection could be at play.
YOUR COLD BECOMES UNUSUALLY BAD
It’s not always easy to know when to go to the doctor for a cold; if yours doesn’t pass or even worsens, seek professional help. Specifically, watch for the following:
- A severe cough that lingers more than two weeks may indicate whooping cough, while sustained congestion can lead to a sinus infection if left untreated.
- If you have a fever, muscle aches or other flu-like symptoms, you may in fact have the flu. In these cases, it’s best to see the doctor for a Tamiflu prescription. Seniors, expecting mothers and persons with heart disease should exercise extra caution, as they are more likely to develop complications from the flu.
- Extremely difficult swallowing, chest pain and shortness of breath are not normal cold symptoms and may indicate a more serious condition.
- If you can’t keep anything down, you may need an IV to get fluids to help your body function.
YOU’VE LOST WEIGHT SUDDENLY AND WITHOUT EXPLANATION
An unexplained drop in weight could indicate overactive thyroid, diabetes, depression or liver disease, among other things. As a general rule of thumb, if you’ve lost more than 10% of your body weight in the last six months (and you’re not obese), make an appointment with your doctor.
YOUR BOWEL MOVEMENT OR URINATION HAS CHANGED
Keep in mind that bowel movement and urination can vary from person to person, so the most important thing to look for is a sudden change in your own pattern, whether that’s bloody or black stools, diarrhea or constipation, or excessive urination. When these crop up, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.
YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE A CONCUSSION
If you’ve fallen on your head or suffered a blow to it, monitor for the symptoms of concussion. These can include difficulty concentrating, headache, irritability and change in sleep pattern; if any of these develop, see your doctor.
YOU DEVELOP UNEXPECTED SYMPTOMS AFTER A PROCEDURE OR STARTING A NEW MEDICATION
Anytime you undergo a medical procedure or surgery, get an immunization, or start a new medication, ask your doctor in advance about the known symptoms. Monitor for these and if anything out of the ordinary occurs, call the doctor’s office to see if an appointment is advised.