Warning Signs: What Your Body Is Telling You

When something is wrong with our health, it usually doesn’t go into full-swing all of a sudden. Our body typically gives us warning signs well in advance of an issue becoming critical. It’s very important to pay attention to the warning signs your body gives you as it can help you to treat and prevent serious health issues before they escalate.

Warning signs may appear anywhere on your body, from your head to your toes — literally. Here are some common warning signs and what they may mean. It’s important not to jump to any drastic conclusions and visit your physician to confirm that your health is in check if you notice that something is off.

1. Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes, the site of lymphocyte formation, are found throughout the body. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, including the Natural Killer cells, T-cells, B-cells, which mainly function to protect the body from foreign particles, such as viruses or bacteria. Essentially, lymphocytes are one of the most important aspects of our immune system. So, it makes sense that when your lymph nodes are swollen, it’s due to the rapid formation of lymphocytes as a response to an infection.

Alexander Raths / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Raths / Shutterstock.com

Depending on the cause of swelling, other symptoms may occur, as well. For example, if your lymph nodes are swollen due to a respiratory infection, you may experience runny nose or a sore throat. On the other hand, if you have an immune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, joint pains will accompany the lymph node swelling. Common lymph node sites are in your neck, armpits, lower part of the back of your head and under the jaw.

Once the infection has cleared, lymph nodes typically return to their normal size. It’s important to seek professional help when swelling persists for over 2 weeks or the nodes continue to get larger.

2. Fever

A fever is often defined as a temporary rise in the body’s temperature. For an adult, this may occur when the body temperature exceeds 37.2°C or 99°F.  What causes this abnormal rise in body temperature? The most common reason is some sort of an underlying infection.

Literally any type of infection, including respiratory, ear, skin, urinary tract and bone infections may trigger a fever. Even autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and certain cancers may present with a fever.

The function of a fever in infections is actually to help, not hurt, you. The high temperatures that characterize fevers function to kill off viruses and bacteria, as the most common ones typically thrive in temperatures of 98.7°F or lower. This is because the high temperatures help T-cells, one of the most important immune system cells, to function better.

You should seek professional help if you have a fever over 40.5°C or 105°F or if the fever lasts more than 3 days.

VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com
VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

3. Excessive tiredness

Excessive tiredness can be a warning sign for many things, besides a lack of sleep. One thing that may cause excessive tiredness is anemia, a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough red blood cells to distribute oxygen to their tissues. This in turn, will cause weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness and cold hands and feet.

Anemia may be temporary; for example, it may occur when you donate blood. It may also be a long-term, chronic condition. There are various types of anemia, including iron-deficiency anemia and sickle-cell anemia. They are all treated differently to deal with the underlying cause.

A thyroid disorder may also cause excessive tiredness. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism, so when the body produces a low amount of thyroid hormones, the body burns energy more slowly and vital functions slow down, resulting in constant tiredness. When your immune system is working overtime, such as during an infection or in an autoimmune disorder (when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues), you also experience excessive tiredness.

But, just because you’re tired it might not necessarily mean you have anemia or some other serious complication. It’s when this tiredness is accompanied by other uncommon symptoms that persist for a long period of time that you should consider getting a check-up.

Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
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