You’ve felt it all day but been too busy (and maybe in a little bit of denial) to acknowledge it. The headache, fatigue, pain; or maybe it came fast and furious and you found yourself spending all night in the bathroom, too weak and sick to move.
You are quick to take care of your children, your parents, and your spouse when symptoms of illness rear themselves, but what do you do when YOU feel an onslaught of fatigue, fever, and pain coming in battle array against you? And how do you know if you should take a medical time out and seek medical attention without delay?
As an RN, I often get asked what to do for different symptoms, and whether they are serious enough to seek medical attention. Let’s talk about three of the most common culprits that are known for interrupting normal life, and when they are significant enough to deal with in an urgent manner.
There are some symptoms that may or may not be associated with other characteristics of illness that stand alone as requiring emergency intervention. This is not an all-inclusive list, but if you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately:
- unexplained chest pain
- shortness of breath
- new onset of confusion, feeling disoriented, unable to speak, or other changes in mental status
- sudden loss of coordination
- uncontrolled bleeding
Barring any of the above symptoms, you can “triage” yourself to decide what to do for more common ailments. For adults that are otherwise healthy, you can often get well without a doctor visit if you take good care of yourself at home. However, if you have underlying health issues and/or a compromised immune system, it is important to seek medical attention sooner rather than later.
When to be concerned
Let’s look at a few common symptoms and how to know whether you should be concerned about them:
Usually for otherwise healthy adults, fever is nothing more than an uncomfortable inconvenience. It will usually resolve within a few days, and you can use over-the-counter medications to bring it down and deal with the associated symptoms and accompanying achiness fevers often bring. It usually isn’t a cause for concern unless it hangs out at around 103F.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek immediate medical attention if your fever is accompanied by any of these sympotms:
- Severe headache
- Unusual skin rash, especially if the rash rapidly worsens
- Unusual sensitivity to bright light
- Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
- Mental confusion
- Persistent vomiting
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
- Convulsions or seizures
Yuck. It’s the worst. Usually, it’s a stomach virus that will pass in 12-24 hours, but you may feel like you might not live that long. If it’s accompanied by the D- word, then you may feel really weak and dehydration can become a concern. Occasionally, vomiting can be a sign of something more serious, so you should seek emergent medical attention if it is persistent and accompanied by these symptoms:
- chest pain/shortness of breath
- severe headache- especially if you don’t usually get headaches ‘
- symptoms of dehydration: weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, dark colored urine
- you are vomiting blood or coffee ground material
- Fever of 103F and a stiff neck
- Your symptoms don’t gradually improve after a few hours and/or you have severe abdominal pain that doesn’t improve after vomiting/using the bathroom
- You have persistent pain in your right lower abdomen
Headaches come in many forms and can be brought on by many things, such as fatigue, dehydration, stress, heat, certain foods, even weather fronts. Most of the time they are not serious, but they can be quite uncomfortable. Migraines are a different beast and thankfully, there are now some great medications available to prevent them or treat them at the onset to prevent a severe, protracted headache. If you think are are experiencing migraine headaches, you should seek the advice of a health professional for a definitive diagnosis and a custom treatment plan.
The National Headache Foundation gives the following symptoms that you should seek emergency help for:
- You are having the worst headache ever
- You are having your worst migraine attack ever
- Your headache is accompanied by the following symptoms:
-Unresolved loss of vision
-Loss of consciousness
-The pain of your headache lasts more than 72 hours with less than a solid four-hour pain-free period while awake
-You experience a headache or a migraine attack that presents unusual symptoms that are abnormal for you and frightening
Obviously there are many factors that go in to determining the level of medical care needed for any particular situation, but this gives you some general guidelines to go by if you aren’t sure what to do. The bottom line is, if you feel uneasy or like something isn’t right, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Seek medical attention if you are in doubt about what to do.
Add your faith and speak the Word
If you are a person of faith, then another very important element to add to your situation is the Word of God. The Bible has a lot to say about your health and healing and crisis situations, and applying it and speaking it over yourself and your situation can make all the difference. Again, if you have an emergency situation, do not delay in taking action. But as you go, take the scriptures with you in your heart, your mind, and your mouth.
Speak the result you want, not the problem you are dealing with
It is very important in any situation is to watch what you say. Don’t welcome sickness with your words. They have power, and you can invite sickness and disease to move right on in with what you speak over yourself. Let the first thing out of your mouth be the result you want. You are not denying that you have real symptoms, but you can deny their right to take up residence in your body. Go right to the Word of God first, find a scripture that covers what you are dealing with, and declare it over yourself. Having a few memorized and abiding in your heart is important, because sometimes you can feel so badly so quickly, you can’t even take the time or energy to find your Bible.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
I Peter 2:24- “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed.
Psalm 34:17- “The righteous cry, and the Lords hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
Acts 10:38- “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
A scripture for every situation
There are scriptures that will speak to your situation specifically. Deuteronomy 28 lists all of the manifestations of the curse, including fever and inflammation. Galatians 3:13-14 tells us we’ve been redeemed from the curse. If you struggle with fatigue, the Psalms are full of scriptures about strength. There are wonderful scriptures that address infertility. If anxiety is the cause of your symptoms, there are many, many verses on getting free from fear. if you are experiencing pain, the scriptures tell us that Jesus bore pain for us. Every situation is covered by scripture.
Once you are covered by the Word, you have put yourself in a place of victory in the spirit. You can rest in that, and then also address your symptoms and make a plan. Over time, as we grow in faith and confidence in the truth of God’s word, symptoms of illness will become less and less noticeable. They are nothing compared to the power of God. But as we’ve discussed, sometimes situations are urgent and sometimes healing also comes gradually, and it is totally okay to go to the doctor and/or take medications if needed. You can go to the doctor and be in faith at the same time.
Trusting God AND seeking medical care
Sickness is, at the least, disruptive and at the most terrifying when it barges in, interrupting every aspect of our life and schedule. As Christians, we want to trust God in every situation. Sometimes having to go to the doctor or hospital can feel like a huge defeat as we endeavor to grow and take a stand against the attack of the enemy.
But even when you are standing in faith for healing, it is okay to seek medical attention. In fact, sometimes it is the wise thing to do. Doctors and nurses are on your side and are after the same results you are seeking. They are steadfast warriors against every illness and disease and will do their best to help you regain your health as quickly as possible. The most important thing you can do ask God for wisdom and then listen as He directs you in how to act. Trust your gut and listen to your body–if you feel like something isn’t right, get it checked out. Just start out in faith and stay in faith, take care of yourself, and do what you need to do to feel better fast.