Knowing when to visit a GP is an important aspect of the role everyone plays in their own health management.

Coughs and colds rarely need the intervention of a doctor but can become more serious.

Regular maintenance is important, particularly as we grow older, while there are certain warning signs that should never be ignored.

And beware of Dr Google – he bulk bills and works around the clock but he’s not intuitive, he can’t examine you and doesn’t know you or your medical history.

Common ailments

There are many common conditions that don’t normally require medical attention.

But if they persist or are particularly unusual and include the following symptoms, it might be wise to visit a GP.

These include:

Colds and flus – painful swallowing or earache, persistent or severe vomiting, a cough that lasts more than two or three weeks, or a fever that won’t budge.

Diarrhoea – anything lasting longer than 3 days, bloody or black stools, severe abdominal pain or dehydration.

Headache – accompanied by high fever, stiff neck, difficulty walking or speaking may indicate stroke or meningitis.

Digestive problems – persistent heartburn, painful swallowing, bloody or green vomiting, sore throat or persistent constipation or diarrhoea.

Head injuries – Dizziness, nausea, confusion, sleep or memory issues, sensitivity to light or noise can all indicate concussion.

Menstrual changes – any unusual changes including bleeding between periods, lack of a period for three months, severe cramps.

Back pain – Persistent pain, fever, pain, tingling or weakness that spreads down one or both legs, especially past your knee, unexplained weight loss, swelling or redness on your back.

Mental health – Constant depression or feeling of sadness, wild mood swings, withdrawal from social interaction, excessive fear or anxiety, changes in eating or sleeping habits, hallucinations, substance abuse or thoughts of self-harm or harming others.

Being vigilant

There are also some less common maladies which can sometimes be easily dismissed but should always be investigated by your GP.

Chest pain –  a dull or heavy feeling in your heart can be a sign it is struggling for oxygen. If pain moves into either arm or is accompanied by shortness of breath or sweating, don’t delay, you may be suffering a heart attack.

Moles – a new mole or changes to an old one should always be inspected by your GP. There are many types of skin cancer which rarely cause problems when treated early.

Bowel habits – any dramatic and changes not related to short-term illnesses like upset stomachs.

Weight loss – if it’s not because you have reduced your calorie intake or increased your exercise regime, something else may be at play.

Tiredness – if you constantly feel exhausted, you may be suffering from sleep apnoea or another illness.

Persistent cough – anything lasting longer than two weeks or coughing up blood shouldn’t be ignored.

Yellowing skin – can indicate jaundice when the liver is not fully functioning. Yellow eyes, itchy skin and darker urine or paler stools are also indicative.

Eye problems – if your vision becomes flooded with black spots, you may be suffering a detached retina. This can sometimes occur after a head knock. Urgent attention is required to reattach it.

Regular maintenance

Regularly visiting your doctor is always important, irrespective of who you are and your history.

Even if you are suffering no apparent or ongoing issues and under the age of 50, it is still a good idea to have a check-up every couple of years. If you are older, or you have had health conditions, you should schedule a regular catch up with your GP. Talk to them about finding the right frequency for your needs and situation.

Preventative health screening allows disease to be caught early and is much easier to treat and cost effective than a late diagnosis.

It also gives your doctor a chance to establish base lines for a range of measures such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

As we age however, more regular maintenance is advised.

That includes taking advantage of free government bowel checks bi-annually for men and women from the age of 50.

Your doctor may recommend other regular tests such as a colonoscopy, depending on your health and family history, but the most specific checks that should be undertaken for men and women are:


  • Cholesterol checks from age 35
  • Prostate exams from age 50
  • Abdominal aneurysm screening between 65-75


  • PAP smears for cervical cancer between ages 21-65
  • Cholesterol checks from 45
  • Mammograms between ages 50-74
  • Osteoporosis at 65

Other factors to consider

There are many other circumstances which dictate you should visit a GP or schedule more regular appointments. These include:

  • Weight management
  • Pregnancy
  • Family or lifestyle risk factors for cancer or chronic diseases
  • Your current health status

Book an appointment

Unwanted panic visits to late night emergency rooms can sometimes be avoided by visiting your doctor sooner rather than later.

AHA Clinics encourage ongoing health maintenance to prevent illnesses and disease before they become serious.

To book an appointment at the Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or the Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic please click here.