There are a variety of reasons people might put off visiting a doctor. Sometimes people lack insurance coverage, don’t have the extra time, or just don’t enjoy seeing their doctor. (Who likes it, really?) But there are a few symptoms that could mean you need to get a doctor diagnosis right away—no excuses. We’ve compiled a list of symptoms you should take seriously, so you’ll know when a doctor’s appointment is non-negotiable.
See a doctor with a fever over 103°—or a fever that won’t go away.
If your fever’s more than 103°, get to the doctor regardless of other conditions. If a low-grade fever (one above 100.4°) persists without a diagnosed cause for several weeks, a doctor’s appointment is in order. Children should see their doctor if a fever exceeds 104°, has persisted for five days, or doesn’t come down after taking fever-reducing medication. No matter how high the fever or how long it lasts, infants should visit a doctor if their temperature exceeds 100 degrees.
Seek medical care for weakness in the extremities or other signs of stroke.
Sudden numbness or weakness in your arm, leg, or face can be a symptom of stroke, particularly if it appears on one side of your body. Clot-busting medication can reduce the risk of long-term disability from stroke, but only if it’s taken within 4.5 hours of onset. Other symptoms of stroke include localized paralysis, vision changes, confusion, severe headache, dizziness, seizure, trouble speaking, trouble walking, or a recent injury to the head.
Always take chest pain seriously.
”There is the classic misconception of the ‘Hollywood heart attack,’” Dr. Christopher Cannon, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and cardiologist, told ABC News. “A real heart attack is very subtle.” Chest pain you’d describe as tightness, pressure, or squeezing is an emergency and should be treated right away. This is especially true if the pain is made worse by exercise and improves when you rest, or if it comes along with heart palpitations or light-headedness.
Unexpected shortness of breath necessitates a doctor’s visit under certain circumstances.
If you feel like you’re having to breathe faster than normal, a certain set of symptoms means you need to get to a doctor. If your breathing is made worse with exercise or when you lie flat, or if it happens suddenly, you need medical attention. Also seek medical care if shortness of breath is accompanied by fever, wheezing, gasping, coughing up blood, or swelling and pain in the leg.
The worst headache you’ve ever had can be a sign of something serious.
If your headache comes to a peak within just a few minutes or you can pinpoint the exact moment it started, seek medical help right away. If you’ve recently had a head injury, or your headache comes along with one of the following symptoms, you should also see a doctor: confusion, visual changes, stiff neck, seizure, weakness, fever, vomiting, or pain with chewing. These symptoms could indicate an aneurysm, meningitis, or shingles.
Unusual bleeding can indicate trouble elsewhere in the body.
As a good rule of thumb, seek a doctor diagnosis any time you see blood in an unexpected place: your vomit, stools, or urine. Vaginal bleeding that isn’t associated with a menstrual cycle also needs medical attention. Blood in the urine can point to kidney stones, and certain cancers can cause various types of bleeding.
It’s important to keep in mind that none of these symptoms alone necessarily mean you’re experiencing serious medical trouble. However, they can indicate issues serious enough that it’s important you know when to see a doctor to rule out the need for medical care.