Your Body's Red Light Warning Signals, Revised Edition: Medical Tips That May Save Your Life


This potentially lifesaving guide, newly revised and updated, gives you instant access to the information you need to spot a serious medical condition before it's too late. No matter what the symptom-wavy or distorted vision, a child's wheezing, a severe sore throat, or an irregular pulse-it offers up-to-date information on possible diagnoses and invaluable advice on when you should seek medical help.
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This potentially lifesaving guide, newly revised and updated, gives you instant access to the information you need to spot a serious medical condition before it's too late. No matter what the symptom-wavy or distorted vision, a child's wheezing, a severe sore throat, or an irregular pulse-it offers up-to-date information on possible diagnoses and invaluable advice on when you should seek medical help.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385341615
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/30/2008
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 959,095
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Shulman, M.D., is associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been on the medical school faculty since 1972, teaching, seeing patients, and conducting medical research with over $10 million in funding. He is also author or coauthor of over one hundred scientific papers and author or coauthor of over thirty books, including fiction, nonfiction, and children's books. One book was made into the movie Doc Hollywood, starring Michael J. Fox. He lectures internationally on serious medical topics and performs as a comedian. He is president of Patch Adams' organization, the Gesundheit! Institute.

The pediatric section was written by Joy Lawn, M.D. Dr. Lawn received an undergraduate medical degree with distinction from Nottingham University, England. She is a member of the Royal College of Pediatricians and has been a lecturer in child health at Kumasi Medical School, Ghana. She has had over 60,000 pediatric visits.

Jack Birge, M.D., is the medical director for performance improvement for Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, Georgia. He is also clinical assistant professor of community medicine at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia. Dr. Birge has been practicing primary care medicine since 1959 and has had over 200,000 encounters with patients from all walks of life, from delivery to nursing-home care.

Joon Ahn, M.D., is a practicing cardiologist in Gainesville, Georgia. He did additional training at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Emory University School of Medecine.

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Read an Excerpt

Your Body's Red Light Warning Signals, revised edition

Medical Tips That May Save Your Life

By Jack Birge
Copyright © 2008

Jack Birge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385341615



People do not always know when it is urgent for them to see a doctor or to get a child, friend, or loved one to the doctor. They don't know whether to go to the emergency room or to make an appointment with their primary care doctor or a specialist. Aches and pains, lumps and bumps–when are they potentially life-threatening? When is it crucial to get to a doctor within the next few days, hours, or even minutes? Is it safe to drive or is an ambulance needed? Whatever your circumstances, whether you are single, pregnant, a parent, or a child, these are important medical facts you need to know. . . . They can save lives.

Doctors are saddened and frustrated when a patient dies because he or she did not get the appropriate medical attention in time. This book is written as a quick reference guide for you to use when you or your loved ones have a new symptom or a visible body change. Its goal is to save lives by getting you to the right doctor before it is too late.

Whether you have blood in your urine, a stiff neck with a headache and fever, unequal pupils, or red specks in your fingernails, you need to know if these are warning signs of a life-threatening condition. We havehighlighted potential warning signs and symptoms to empower you with information about the most serious illnesses for which you may need to be evaluated. An informed person can advocate for him/herself and for loved ones so that the most serious medical ailments can be ruled out or treated expeditiously. The tips in this book are concise (a few paragraphs to a few pages) and easy to read. Scan through the book and get an overview of its content. Keep the book in an easily accessible spot in your home, and get in the habit of checking its pages whenever something unfamiliar happens with your body, or when a friend or relative complains of an ailment. Whenever possible these symptoms are listed in head-to-toe order in the Table of Red Light Warning Signals, so that you can find them easily. For your added convenience, there is also an alphabetical index at the back of the book.

We've also included sections in this book that highlight emergency life-saving measures to protect hospitalized patients from errors or subsequent illnesses, the basics of emergency first aid (Heimlich maneuver, CPR, and use of an AED), important preventive medical screenings at various stages of life, techniques for self-examinations (for breast and testicular cancers), and medical advice relating to thermometers and elevated temperatures.

Owning this book is almost like having a team of medical experts on your shelf. Make use of it; it may one day save your life or the life of a loved one.


The First Tier of Health

Keeping healthy involves preventive maintenance as well as the ability to identify diseases early, when treatment is most effective. Taking care of your body is analogous to taking care of your car. The preventive measures for an automobile include regular oil changes, the maintenance of fluid levels, and tune-ups. The same goes for your body. Getting adequate exercise; eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet; getting immunized; and sticking to a mentally healthy lifestyle can keep your body humming smoothly. Just as you uncover potential problems with your car by checking the oil and the pressure in your tires, you should have your body checked to detect unsafe levels of blood pressure and cholesterol and early signs of cancer (a routine Pap smear and mammogram, sigmoidoscopic exam, and scan). Appendix C, at the back of the book, provides information on many of the routine screenings you can get to ensure that your body is running properly. In addition, Appendix B provides the instructions for performing a basic level of screening on yourself for certain ailments such as breast cancer and testicular cancer.

The Second Tier of Health

The majority of the material in this book addresses the second tier of maintaining your health: identifying your body’s red light warning signals. Responsible drivers keep an eye on their car's dashboard lights so that they will be able to address problems immediately. Repairing a leaking radiator or replacing an alternator can prevent the car from dying on the highway. Likewise, your body flashes signals–symptoms and signs–that can warn you of potential problems. If corrected early, you can remain healthy.

When something that you cannot identify goes wrong with your car, the owner's manual is a smart place to turn for information. This book is an easy-to-access, reader-friendly owner's manual that highlights many of the most common warning signals of your body.

In order to assemble the material in this book, we've mixed our own clinical experience–which adds up to more than 170,000 hours of patient care–with the advice of hundreds of health specialists. It is not possible to include a reference to every important symptom and sign, so you should always consult your doctor whenever you have a concern. However, we do hope that this book will help you articulate your problem to your doctor, particularly since the system of health-care delivery imposes so many limitations on your physician’s time.

Head to Toe

We have listed, by body part, many of your red light warning signals, starting from your head and going down to your toes.

If you have a suspicious symptom or find an abnormality on your body, simply look it up in our Table of Red Light Warning Signals by its location on your body. If the problem is not location-specific, refer to Part Two of the book, which covers warning signs associated with your entire body, such as fever or seizures. Part Three deals with pregnancy and post-pregnancy. Although Parts One and Two list signs and symptoms that can also apply to children or teens, Part Four addresses specific pediatric red lights. Like the tips in Part One, these pediatric tips are listed head to toe.

Most people keep the owner's manual for their car in the glove box or another special place where they can find it easily and quickly. Do the same with this book: Keep it in an easy-to-find location. Though we hope you will not need it, it might one day save your life–or the life of your child, a friend, or family member.

The one message we'd like to leave you with is: "Be aware!" Constant vigilance about your health can save you from pain and suffering by helping you avoid exposure to external factors that may make you sick or worsen a preexisting illness. For example, it will help you steer clear of dangers such as toxins released into the water by a leaking waste dump, too much or too little exposure to the sun, the consumption of certain foods and/or impure herbs, and overdoses or insufficiencies of vitamins. Another danger you need to be aware of is the possible side effects of medications. Since some medications may cause you to have an allergic reaction, and others interact dangerously when taken together, you need to be aware of the actions, side effects, and interactions of all of the medications you take. Make sure that you get patient package inserts from the drugstore and discuss your prescription (and nonprescription) medications with your doctor and pharmacist.

Awareness can also help you once you make it to the hospital. Once you're admitted, don't let yourself settle into a backseat role: Help prevent errors. Unfortunately, although patients go to the hospital to get better, errors made by the hospital's health team can sometimes result in serious complications or death. Part Five in this book gives specific advice on how to monitor your care when you are in the hospital.

The best way to prevent errors is to become proactive and monitor what is being done to you or to get a friend or relative to monitor your care and advocate for you. Remember: Even though you are already ill, you can still take measures to protect yourself and prevent your condition from worsening.

We've included an additional section that may come in handy. The two ultimate emergency signs are an inability to breathe and the heart stopping. In case you never took a course in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or choking first aid (the Heimlich maneuver), consult Appendix A. You may have taken a course but forgotten the details of these life-saving actions. It's a quick read that may save a life. Read the section to a friend. Who knows? They may end up saving your life. . . a life definitely worth saving!


Excerpted from Your Body's Red Light Warning Signals, revised edition by Jack Birge Copyright © 2008 by Jack Birge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Medical Tips That Can Save Your Life xv

How to Use This Book xvii

How to Use the Table of Red Light Warning Signals xxi

Table of Red Light Warning Signals xxii

Part 1 Body Part-Specific Health Problems (More Common in Adults), Listed from Head to Toe

Head 3

Eyes 27

Ear, Nose, Mouth, Throat, and Neck 34

Arms and Hands 52

Breast 63

Chest Area 69

Belly, Stomach Area, or Abdomen 111

Genitalia 141

Bowel Movement 147

Urine 157

Menstruation (Periods), Menopause, and PMS 166

Groin 173

Hips, Buttocks, Legs, and Ankles 175

Skin 181

Back 201

Part 2 General Symptoms and Signs (More Common in Adults): Not Body Part-Specific Conditions

Allergic Reactions 209

Blood and Blood Pressure 216

Dehydration 223

Fever 225

Medication 228

Passing Out, Loss of Consciousness 230

Temperature Change 233

Weakness 239

Weight Loss 242

Part 3 Pregnancy and Postpregnancy

Introduction: Preventive Measures to Increase the Chances of Delivering a Healthy Baby 247

Part 4 Pediatrics: Body Part-Specific Conditions

Introduction: Childhood Conditions 259

Head 269

Psychological Problems 277

Eyes 281

Throat 283

Arms, Hands, Fingers, and Nails 285

Back 287

Chest 289

Belly 294

Urine 296

Bowel Movement 299

Genitalia 304

Legs 305

Skin and Hair 307

Allergic Reactions 314

Fever 316

Miscellaneous 318

Part 5 Prevention of Errors in the Hospital

Introduction 327

Hospital Policy 329

Sanitization 331

Mistaken Identity and Communication Errors 333

Medication 336

Secondary Conditions that You Can Develop in the Hospital and How to Avoid Them 338

Accidents 342


A Emergency MedicalTreatment 343

Choking 343

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and the Use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) 350

B Self-Examinations 364

Breast Exam 364

Testicular Exam 367

C Valuable Preventive Screenings (Listed from Head to Toe) 369

D Taking a Child's Temperature 393

Index 401

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