Red Flags

You are as important to your health as it is to you.

Rae Lee Cooper writes from Washington State, which she and her husband now call home. Enjoyable activities include being more involved in the lives of her children and grandchildren, teaching music, and participating in church community health and welfare programs.

The bright color of a red flag is definitely an attention getter. Historically red flags have had political, military, legal, and scientific significance. Red flags have also been used during auto races when conditions were unsafe. They have been used to indicate a high risk of fire in severe dry conditions, on beaches when it’s unsafe to swim, and during the threat or presence of severe weather. No matter when or where a red flag appears, the universal message is the same: “Warning! You have cause for concern.”


Visually, it is almost impossible to miss a red flag. However, red flag warnings can also appear as feelings that urge us to pause, listen to our intuition, and reconsider our course of action. Here are some everyday examples of intuition-based red flags:

1. While in a grocery store, you notice a toddler standing up in a shopping cart. Red flag: There is high risk for an injurious fall.

2. You’re driving along the highway and suddenly notice the car in front of you is weaving about on the road. Red flag: An accident may be imminent.

3. The friend you are talking to on the phone sounds different. Her voice is sad and lacks the usual vitality. Red Flag: Is the friend sick? Discouraged? Depressed?

4. You look out the window and notice the sky is dark with heavy, greenish clouds. Red Flag: Is a severe storm on the way?

5. Your neighbor, an elderly man, is standing on the corner of a busy street waiting to cross. Red Flag: Can he see well enough to cross safely?

6. As you come home from work one night, you notice a slight bluish haze in the air near your living room ceiling. Red Flag: Is a fire developing?

7. Your co-worker has come down with a severe case of the flu. Red Flag: Flu is very contagious, and you might have been exposed.


When it comes to personal health issues, most of us are not above ignoring medical symptoms from time to time, and in most cases without bad outcomes. We may avoid going to the doctor for something that might be insignificant. Some avoid seeking medical evaluation out of fear that a serious illness might be diagnosed. Others avoid medical attention because they prefer to self-treat with more familiar and trusted home remedies.

The phrase “time is brain” refers to the fact that hospital-based treatments to restore blood flow to the brain following signs and symptoms of a stroke are effective only if begun within three hours of the onset of a stroke. With early treatment the risk of permanent brain damage can be decreased in many cases. This concept applies to a number of potentially serious red flag symptoms. With early diagnosis and initiation of treatment, a more devastating prognosis might be avoided.

Here are some red flags conditions which could have better outcomes with early medical diagnosis and treatment:

1. Chest Pain: Not all chest pain is the result of a heart attack, but you can’t know for sure without medical evaluation. And if it is a heart attack, time is heart muscle. The longer you wait, the more damage is done to the heart.

2. Severe Head Pain: If you suddenly develop a headache which can be described as the worst pain you have had in your life, call for help immediately. The pain may be due to an enlarged artery pressing on your brain. Rupture can be imminent and a deadly possibility.

3. Abdominal Pain With Excess Gas: If, over some time, you have unusually significant bloating, loss of appetite, or a change in bowel habits, contact your doctor to rule out cancer or other serious gastrointestinal conditions.

4. A Persistent Cough: If that cough of yours is lingering over several weeks, see your doctor. You could have an infection, cancer, a heart condition, or Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease.

5. Post-Menopausal Bleeding: If you are not supposed to be bleeding and you are, something is wrong. Causes could be endometrial polyps or cancer, imbalanced hormones, or an atrophying uterus. Seeing your doctor may be the first step in saving your life. 6. Unexplained Weight Loss: If you notice you are dropping pounds effortlessly and you aren’t upping your exercise or reducing calories, you have cause for concern. Colon cancer, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism could be to blame. Don’t delay with this red flag.

7. A Cramp That Won’t Go Away: Persistent pain, cramping, or tenderness in a leg could indicate a blood clot (or deep vein thrombosis: DVT). The serious risk is that the clot could travel to the lungs and block an artery, thus stopping the heart and resulting in immediate death. Symptoms can include pain or swelling in the calf, pain behind the knee, or pain or tenderness in the thigh.

8. Shortness of Breath: A tightening of the muscles around the airway, along with inflammation of the lining of the airways and thick mucus production, indicates an acute asthma attack. At a critical level this condition could stop the heart. Asthma symptoms indicate a need for medical evaluation and ongoing treatment to lower the risk of a severe episode.

9. The Seven Warning Signs of Cancer: These include changes in bowel or bladder patterns, a sore that does not heal, unusual bleeding, thickened breast or testicular tissue, indigestion, obvious changes in the appearance of a mole, or a nagging cough. Any one of these red flag symptoms should prompt you to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

10. Sudden Changes in Vision: Blurriness, halos, blind spots, floaters, or the inability to see at certain distances could be a sign of an eye disease, aging, an eye injury, or diabetes. Vision changes should be considered serious and never ignored, as they can become worse and sometimes lead to blindness.


Consider these symptoms of spiritual illness:

1. Feelings of Anxiety and Stress: Caused by a significant lack of prayer. Immediately begin a steady daily prayer routine and watch anxiety and stress melt away (1 Pet. 5:7).

2. Tormented by Guilt: Caused by lack of confession of sin. Seeking forgiveness results in a clean feeling much like taking a refreshing shower. The mind is relieved and filled with peace (Ps. 145:18, 19).

3. Spiritual Starvation: Caused by neglecting Bible study. The Word of God contains food for the spirit and brings nourishment and life to the hungry soul (John 6:35).

4. Dissatisfaction and Discontent: Caused by a lack of thankfulness. Each day present your thanks and praise to God and watch your discontent diminish and disappear (Ps. 59:16).

5. Threatened Collapse Under Heavy Burdens: Caused by a decrease in church attendance and observance of the Sabbath day as ordained by God. Without that one day of rest and worship, the body and spirit receive no rejuvenation (Matt. 11:28).

6. Difficulty Getting Along With People: Caused by a lack of love for God. Loving the Lord with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength will cause a heart transformation and a loving, peace-filled spirit (Luke 10:27; John 7:38).

7. Insensitivity to the Needs of Others: Caused by spiritual distance from God. This condition will naturally decrease as one develops a close relationship with Him. Soon it will become as natural as breathing to respond to the needy, the sick, the suffering, and the poor (Heb. 13:16).

Spiritual and physical health are closely related. “When one is affected, the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men [and women] suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 241). We are “fearfully and wonderfully” made and are given the responsibility of caring for our amazing bodies. We can start by heeding those red flag warnings.

Rae Lee Cooper writes from Washington State, which she and her husband now call home. Enjoyable activities include being more involved in the lives of her children and grandchildren, teaching music, and participating in church community health and welfare programs.