4 Scary Symptoms That Are Usually Harmless
You should not get overly excited about every symptom, sometimes small things appear bigger than they actually are and we panic. After we hit 50, minor aches and headaches are common, we should know the difference between major and minor pain. Although it is natural to see a doctor when something unusual happens, there are some things that are not a big deal. Here are some symptoms that are scary but usually harmless:
- Bell’s Palsy
We often mistake Bell’s Palsy for a stroke, when we experience sudden loss of muscle control on one side of the face. A stroke occurs when blood and oxygen can’t reach your brain due to clotting, while Bell’s Palsy is from inflammation of a facial nerve that causes facial paralysis and weakness.
Dr. Carlo Reyes, emergency room physician and vice chief of staff at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California says, “It’s a simple diagnosis but can be missed by an ER doctor who doesn’t have the training.”
Bell’s Palsy affects only the face, not arms or legs. It affects one side of the face so that the person can’t close one eye, the mouth droops, and he can’t wrinkle his forehead on that side of the face. This does require treatment but it is not an emergency.
When to see a doctor: If you experience mouth drooping without other symptoms you should see a doctor right away, says Reyes. A stroke may be imminent if you have slurred speech, trouble seeing, and numbness in legs and arms.
- A bloody nose
Nosebleeds can be scary when they occur suddenly and involve a lot of blood. “People worry that it’s internal bleeding, but almost every time it’s not,” says Reyes. Nosebleeds are usually caused by bleeding of the anterior septum, where blood vessels lie close to the surface of the skin. The bleeding usually stops with pressure or packing. There are many contributing factors to nosebleeds, including high blood pressure and allergies. The risk is highest in children aged 2-10 and adults 50-80.
When to see a doctor: If the bleeding does not stop after 5-10 minutes you should see a physician. Reyes says, “Ninety percent of nosebleeds are anterior,” but posterior bleeding from deep inside the nose requires immediate attention and does not go away with pressure.
- Heart Palpitations
A sudden speeding up of heartbeats or feeling like it’s ‘skipping’ a beat isn’t usually an emergency. “Palpitations can be a nuisance, and very frequent in many pre- and post-menopausal women,” says Dr. Brian C. Kolski, internist at Interventional Cardiology, St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, Calif.
He explains that it is rare to have palpitations as a sign of more serious cardiac problems. “Palpitations that occur while lying down for sleep or sitting quietly also tend to be a more benign variety, and hyperawareness at these calm states can fuel serious anxiety,” he says. Changes in hormones and estrogen levels trigger flushing and palpitations.
When to see a doctor: If you have a fast irregular or regular pulse, 150 to 200 beats per minute sustained over several minutes; palpitations accompanied by chest, left arm, or jaw pain; or feeling like you are passing out or complete collapse associated with palpitations.
- Cat scratch fever
People suffering from cat scratch fever often take swollen lymph nodes too seriously, believing it to be lymphoma, a type of cancer. The bacteria Bartonella henselae, found in cats, causes a fever. You can get it from being bitten or scratched by a cat or if you pet a cat and rub your eyes without washing your hands first. Cat fur can also transfer the bacteria and cause a fever.
When to see a doctor: Sudden weight loss, feelings of tiredness, fever, and chills, loss of appetite, and night sweats.