4 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore and What They Could Mean

April 22, 2014
by Michael Barber
4 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore and What They Could Mean

In the age of self-diagnosis and Web MD, it's tempting to treat symptoms as if you absolutely know the cause. However, there are many cases when a symptom could point to a serious problem that may require urgent care. There are several warning signs that you should never second guess. Read on for four symptoms you should never ignore and what they may mean for your health.

Related: When You Should NOT Go To an Urgent Care

1. Severe Chest Pain

Mild chest pain could be caused by trapped gas or even heart burn, both of which are harmless conditions that you can treated at home. While chest pain alone isn't always a symptom of something grave, such as a heart attack, when paired with other symptoms it's a cause for concern.

When to Worry: Severe chest pain would feel debilitating in the moment. It may cause you to grip your chest or fall to your knees. If the chest pain comes with aching in your jaw, shoulders, and arms, it is possible that you are experiencing a heart attack. If you experience moderate chest pain over time, consider this a possible symptom of heart disease and seek a doctor's advice on proper management – including diet and exercise.

Related: Is Aspirin Really Beneficial to the Heart?

2. Abnormal Bowel Movement

An abnormal bowel movement generally has an unusual color or consistency. There are times when certain foods, such as beets, or allergies could cause a temporary change in bowel movements. Additionally, Mayo Clinic notes, "Only rarely does stool color indicate a potentially serious intestinal condition." However, there are a few red flags to look for.

When to Worry: According to Mayo Clinic, there are two troublesome colors that are cause for concern: black and bright red. Either could indicate bleeding in certain parts of the intestinal track. If you experience an abnormal bowel movement more than several times and after 24 hours (eliminating any possible diet-related changes), find urgent care locations in your area and seek medical attention.

Related: The Gross Facts About Food Poisoning

3. Severe Headache

Frequent migraine suffers excluded, a sudden and severe head ache is a symptom you should never ignore. Like chest pain, a severe headache, accompanied by other symptoms, could be grave. A concerning and severe headache would also feel incapacitating.  

When to Worry: Again, if you aren't prone to severe headaches, this is a symptom you should absolutely pay attention to. Harvard Medical School reports, "[…] if your headache is severe or unusual, you might worry about stroke, a tumor, or a blood clot." Other indications of a possible stroke, blood clot, or tumor could be dizziness accompanied by a sudden change in thinking or ability to mentally process.

4. High Fever

A high fever alone or even with a common cold shouldn't be taken lightly. A high fever is almost always a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. While the symptom itself isn't deadly, the health issues that cause it might be.

When to Worry: High fevers are especially dangerous for infants and toddlers. Web MD states, "High fever can cause seizures in young children." For adults, high fever can point to a severe internal or external infection. For example, a wound with redness, accompanied by a severe fever could be septic.

Related: How Healthcare Reform Impacts Urgent Care

Have you experienced one or more of the symptoms on this list? What was the result? Did you seek medical care? Share your thoughts in the comments below.