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Tracking your symptoms

June 17, 2011

The symptom log is finally here, click here to download it.

It is an Excel file, designed to fit one normal sized piece of paper while still giving you room to punch holes in the side to keep it in a binder. If you want to use it just on the computer, you might have to widen the columns a bit. It prints very well (I just printed out 15 of them) so no need to worry about one page being split onto two or more papers, just make sure your printer is set to portrait and not landscape. You can keep it on your smartphone as well, though personally, I’m not going to bother with that because I find the screen too small to be effective for spreadsheets. I’m just keeping mine in a binder so I don’t lose it all if my computer crashes and jot down notes throughout the day on my phone if something comes up so I will remember it later.

It took me a while to get this done because I was just trying to add too much to it. I decided to keep it simple, and you might want to as well. It may seem like there is not a lot of room in some areas but there is. Keep it short and sweet and it should work just fine. If you have more than 4 symptoms per day, all you have to do is use a second page (thus the “page __ of ___ in the top right hand corner). If you find that you’re having a hard time fitting everything in because you are using a lot of description, you might want to switch to using just a daily journal instead to give yourself more room.

So, to help you use this log more effectively, I’ll give it a quick go over and explain how I’m using it to track my symptoms and give you a better idea of what to fill in each section with.

Filling It In
First up, the name of the symptom. Keep this very short. If you have a headache that feels like a vice is squeezing your head, just fill this section in as “headache”.

In the onset section, record the time the symptom started (or time of day if you don’t remember the time). If it’s something you’ve had all day since I woke up, just put present upon wakening (or something like that).

Use the description section to describe what it feels like. If it is a pain, is it dull, sharp, crushing, throbbing? If its vertigo, does it feel like you’re on a rocking ship? Does it feel like the ground is dropping out from under you?

The “worsened by” section is pretty self-explanatory. Does the pain get worse when you move or touch the area? Does the vertigo get worse when you stand up?

Try to be a bit more specific if you can in the “area affected” section. If you’re having numbness in your left hand, write down which specific parts of your hand are numb (ex: the back of your hand, fingertips, palm, if it’s only in certain fingers which ones)

“Severity” can be a bit of a tricky one. If you’ve ever mentioned any pain to a doctor or paramedic before, you’ve likely been asked “on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced and 1 being no pain at all, how would you rate this pain?” That’s what this section is asking. Be honest with yourself though, if it’s not really a 10/10, don’t list it as a 10. If you’re filling these in on your computer, this column is formatted to read numbers as texts (so if you put in 5/10, it won’t automatically reformat it for you to a date). This scale works for just about everything though, not just pain. Just rate the intensity of the feeling.

In the “relief measure” section you may need to do some numbering. If you had a headache and took a pain reliever for it, write down the name of the drug and the dosage you took. If that worked, then no need to number it. If it didn’t work though, number that relief measure as 1, then whatever you tried next as 2. This is important for the next section.

The “result” section is to record how effective your relief measures were. If taking that tylenol for your headache didn’t do anything, write it down with the same number you gave it in the “relief measure” section and write down “no effect”. If it helped relieve a bit of your symptom but didn’t get rid of it completely, re-rate your symptom and write down the new rating of it in this section.

For the “time of change” section, record what time of day (or specific time, if you want) when your symptom changed on it’s own (ex: you had a sore back all day but didn’t do anything for it, in the evening it went away on it’s own or got worse).

In “any changes” record what the changes were that you recorded the time for in the “time of change” section.

For “notes”, record anything you think is relevant but didn’t fit in elsewhere.

You’re free to make whatever changes you want to this little log. I would appreciate it if you would comment on this post though if you do make changes, just to share what you did with it. It would be helpful for me and anyone else that uses the log.

I just want to point out though, this log is not intended as something to bring with you for your doctor. It would just be too long for that. If you want to present it to your doctor, I’d suggest writing a summary of it instead and bringing that with you. This log is just to keep track of what is going on with your health so you can track down patterns of symptoms, triggers, and keep track of what works for you. My explainations aren’t the greatest so I may edit this entry later with screen shots of a filled out symptom log as a sample.

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