We’ve put together a check list to help you if you’re unsure whether to contact your health professional.
1. Tummy troubles - if you have blood in your stool or vomit - call your doctor straight away. If it’s out of hours and you can’t get through straight away then call Health Direct on 1800 022 222 and they will be able to advise on next steps. Diarrohea itself isn’t necessarily a reason to call your doctor but if your symptoms aren't getting better after three days, you have prolonged vomiting that prevents liquid intake, or if your oral temperature is higher than 38 degrees Celsius then call your doctor or Health Direct straight away.
2. Headaches - although headaches and migraines are rarely a sign of a major illness, there are warning signs not to be ignored:
• A sudden, severe headache
• A headache accompanied by nerve symptoms like weakness, dizziness, loss of balance or falling, numbness or tingling, paralysis, speech difficulties, mental confusion, seizures, vision changes (blurry vision, double vision, or blind spots)
• Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash
• Headache pain that awakens you at night
• Headaches with severe nausea and vomiting
• Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident
In any of the above cases contact your emergency services immediately.
If you have three or more headaches a week, or they keep getting worse and won't go away, you rely on pain relief most days, you have headaches triggered by exertion of strenuous activity or you have had a change in your headache symptoms contact your GP.
3. Back pain - most people will experience back pain at sometime in their lives. But if you also experience any of the following it’s important to seek medical help:
• Fever - back pain accompanied by a fever could be a sign of a serious infection
• Trauma - if you’ve experienced a fall or any other kind of accident that triggered the back pain it’s important to get the all clear from your doctor.
• Numbness or tingling - this could be a sign of nerve irritation or damage and should be looked at as soon as possible.
• Loss of bladder or bowel function
• Medical history of cancer, suppressed immune system or osteoporosis
The above is not an exhaustive list of all of the times you should call your doctor so use your intuition. And if your body temperature ever reaches more than 38 degrees Celsius seek medical help immediately.
If in doubt, make Health Direct (call 1800 022 222) or accident and emergency (000) your first choice - and remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially in the case of children or the elderly.
Written by Ruth Tongue