7 Signs You Need to Go See Your Doctor   

7 Signs You Need to Go See Your Doctor

Close up shot of woman blowing her nose.

August 30, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Timothy Wuu, M.D.

As much as we try to tough it out, there are times when our bodies need a little extra care. While some ailments may pass on their own, there are certain signs that shouldn't be ignored. 

Your health is important, and knowing when to consult a healthcare professional can make all the difference. Here are seven signs that indicate it's time to schedule a visit to your doctor:

1. Your symptoms won’t go away

  • If you have a cold that lasts for more than 10 days
    • See your doctor to rule out more serious conditions such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • You have common cold symptoms accompanied by a fatigue, muscle aches or a fever
    • These could be a sign of other illnesses and infections such as COVID-19 or the flu
  • Your cough lasts for more than 2 weeks
    • You may be dealing with a virus or bacterial infection that needs a prescription medication to treat
  • You have excessive mucus or experience pain when swallowing that is worse than a sore/dry throat

"If your symptoms persist and don't seem to be improving, it's crucial to reach out to your doctor," advises Timothy Wuu, M.D., a primary care physician. While some illnesses may resolve on their own, persistent symptoms may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires attention.

2. You have a fever

      1. You have a high fever
        1. Babies under 3 months old: 100.4°F or higher
        2. Children: 102°F or higher
        3. Adults: 103°F or higher 
      2. Your fever lasts for longer than 3 days (even for a low fever)
      3. You have a rash with your fever
      4. You are having trouble staying hydrating and keeping liquids down 
      5. Your fever is accompanied by a severe headache


3. Unexpected symptoms after a surgery or when starting a new medication

    1. For many surgeries it is normal to experience some discomfort or other symptoms during recovery, but some symptoms can point to abnormal complications that should not be ignored:
      1. Uncontrollable or unstoppable bleeding
      2. An infection (which can cause a fever)
      3. Difficulty breathing or peeing
      4. Allergic reaction (to anesthesia or other medication used)
      5. Redness, pain and swelling

"When you experience unexpected symptoms following a surgery or starting a new medication, it's important not to dismiss them as they can require immediate medical attention," emphasizes Dr. Wuu.

4. New or worsening mental health issues

“Your well-being matters, and that of course includes your mental health,” says Dr. Wuu. “Everyone goes through difficult periods of life, but keep note of how you’re feeling and if you don’t see things getting better, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor.”

  1. Excessive fear, worrying or anxiety
  2. Sad or depressing thoughts that won’t go away
  3. Sudden weight loss or weight gain (loss of appetite or intensified cravings)
  4. Trouble sleeping or excessive tiredness, especially during the day
  5. Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
  6. Mood swings or irritability, sudden or random changes in mood
  7. Substance abuse or difficulty coping with everyday problems
  8. Not enjoying things you once did


5. Digestive issues or stomach problems

      1. Persistent heartburn that doesn’t go away with medicine
      2. Frequent constipation, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 
      3. Vomiting or coughing up blood,
        1. Also vomiting bile (which is green)
      4. Bloody or black poop
      5. Severe or persistent abdominal or stomach pain
      6. Trouble swallowing
      7. Feeling like food is stuck in your throat or chest
        1. Often associated with heaviness and discomfort 


6. You’re having trouble thinking or seeing

  • Thinking:
        1. Increased forgetfulness
        2. Trouble staying focused or concentrating
        3. Changes in behavior or personality
        4. Exhibiting poor judgment or having trouble making decisions or plans
  • Seeing: 
        1. Vision problems that are not fixed by wearing or getting glasses 
          1. Double vision: hazy, cloudy or blurry vision
          2. Seeing “floaters” or having spots in your field of vision
        2. Sudden flashes of light
        3. Dryness
        4. Loss of vision in either eye or loss of peripheral vision
        5. Sensitivity to light or eye pain


7. Signs of a medical emergency

It is important to know what symptoms you should call 9-1-1 for. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you might be having a medical emergency and need to seek help immediately: 

  • Difficulty breathing or choking
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Signs of a heart attack such as:
    • Tightness or pressure in your chest, arms or jaw
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness that happens suddenly
    • Shortness of breath
  • You have suffered an injury to your spine or head
    • Any other severe injury as well 
  • You are having suicidal thoughts
  • Signs of a stroke: 
    • Speech problems
    • Difficulty walking
    • Sudden numbness or confusion
    • Changes in vision

“Keep in mind that this list does not include all of the signs that you should go to see your doctor. Listen to your gut: if you are not feeling well or you have symptoms that are worsening or not going away, it is important to discuss them with your doctor,” says Dr. Wuu.

Although it can be tempting to “wait it out” and hope your symptoms will resolve on their own, sometimes you may be dealing with a more serious underlying condition, or an issue that requires a bit more attention, medications or a prescribed plan of treatment. 

If you are new to a primary care provider, make sure to bring your past medical records, list of medications you take, vaccine schedules, family medical history and health insurance with you on your first visit.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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