Now more than ever, we know how important it is to look after our health – but it’s not as simple as visiting the doctor every time we feel unwell. Some symptoms could be a result of a minor illness such as a cold, but they might also be a sign of a more serious problem. So how do you know what’s what?
Our ‘Head to Toe Health MOT’ campaign encourages you to take a proactive stance when it comes to your health – helping to prevent serious illness by recognising symptoms early and getting the treatment you need.
Read on to learn more about checking your body and find out what your next steps are if you do notice something concerning.
Checking your body
You may find remembering to check your body difficult with everything else that’s going on in your life. Getting into a routine is key to making sure you don’t forget – but how often should you be checking your body?
Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. Some parts of your body may need to be examined more frequently than others. For example, it’s recommended that you check your skin every month, but your breasts more often than that so you can begin to understand how they feel at different times in your menstrual cycle.
However you structure your MOT, we would recommend consistency and if you notice anything unusual, it’s useful to make a note of it. Not only will this help to stop things from being missed, but it can make it easier to keep track of how long you have had a symptom for and to log important information. It can also enable you to see patterns in symptoms. All of this is useful information if you need to visit a doctor.
It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the range of screening tests that are available these days. From chlamydia screenings to cardiovascular tests to blood pressure checks, you can get a variety of health checks at your local pharmacy. These can help you monitor your health and catch problems early – and they can also help give you peace of mind if you’re concerned. And if you’re looking to take preventative action against common illnesses such as the flu, keeping up to date with our flu vaccination service is a great way to do it.
What to look out for
Of course, our list is not exhaustive and there are other symptoms you may have. If you notice anything unusual or concerning, you should consult a medical professional who can properly assess your health and advise you on what to do next.
Here are some of the areas you should be keeping an eye on.
Checking how your head feels isn’t just about headaches – it also includes assessing your hair, scalp, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and throat, too. You might notice difficulty swallowing, congestion, or pressure in your ears if you have a cold – but hair loss could be a sign of a scalp problem.
It’s important to have an awareness of the parts of your body in and on your head because it’s effectively the control centre of your body. Four out of your five senses are based here, and losing any one of them would significantly affect how you experience the world around you. Checking this area can help to reduce the risk of sensory loss or other health concerns.
Your upper torso consists of the neck, the shoulders, the heart, the chest and/or breast, the back, and the lungs. Any prolonged pain or tightness in this area of your body should be taken note of, particularly if it stops you from going about your daily activities.
This is because your upper torso contains two vitally important organs – the heart and the lungs – but it also includes the spine, which is integral for keeping your body upright and moving. Conditions that affect any of these parts of your body can be serious and catching any problems early could give you a better chance of recovery.
Then there’s your lower torso. Here, we’re talking about your digestive system (the stomach, the bowel and the bladder), your reproductive organs (the genitals and testicles or uterus), and the part that houses them, the abdomen. There’s a lot going on in there, so there’s a lot to keep an eye on.
Prolonged, severe pain can be a sign of any number of problems within the lower torso, so it’s best to speak to a medical professional who can help you find out the exact cause. And looking after everything else down there is just as important – everything that happens in the doctor’s office is confidential, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
Finally, all the other parts of your body – the hands, feet, toes, legs, knees, muscles, waist, and of course your skin. Even though these don’t fit neatly into the above categories, it’s still important to make sure you don’t leave them out when checking your body. Loss of feeling, tingling sensations, clumsiness and unintentional weight loss or gain should all be noted.
As for your skin, it’s the biggest part of your body, so checking it is a no-brainer. Make sure to check your whole body (yes, even there) and look out for any changes to colour, the size or shape of moles or freckles, and anything else that looks different to usual.
What to do if you’re concerned about your health
The first thing to remember is not to panic – many symptoms have multiple possible causes, so having a symptom does not necessarily signify the worst case scenario. Remember, the sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can be treated. An early diagnosis can often improve your chances of recovery without the need for major treatments.
It’s time to consult a medical professional – and we don’t mean Google. You might be tempted to look for advice online before you go to the trouble of making an in-person appointment, but this can make your worries worse. If you need to, only use reputable sources such as the NHS, or call NHS 111 instead. However, it’s better to get an in-person consultation from your local pharmacist.
When you see your pharmacist, make sure you’ve got all the information you need to hand so you can fully explain your situation. This is where tracking your symptoms comes in handy.
Another thing you should consider bringing to a consultation with your pharmacist is a list of all the medications you are currently taking, as this may inform what treatment your pharmacist suggests. Some medicines can also affect how well others work – including contraceptive methods – so it’s best to give your pharmacist all the information you can.
Have you been keeping a closer eye on your health? Join the conversation using on social media using #headtotoemot.