A symptoms journal is a written record of your health symptoms. It includes information about flare-ups that you and your doctor can use to identify triggers and improve your quality of life.

person sitting outside on a park bench and writing in a symptom journalShare on Pinterest
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Up to 60% of people in the United States live with at least one chronic disease, and one of the hardest parts about having many chronic health conditions can be wondering when a flare-up will happen next. If you experience unpleasant symptoms from a chronic condition more frequently, your doctor may ask that you keep a symptoms journal.

This written record of your symptoms can help you and your doctor detect patterns when symptoms appear. This knowledge can then help reduce the number of flare-ups you experience, improving your quality of life.

If your doctor has asked you to keep a symptoms journal, you may wonder what to include or worry that you’re doing it wrong. Try not to worry. We’ve got the information you need to get the most out of this tool.

A symptoms journal is a written daily record of symptoms you experience. It also includes information about daily habits and medication use that may affect these symptoms. It’s a tool that can help you recognize triggers for flare-ups and better understand your health patterns.

People with chronic illnesses like diabetes or multiple sclerosis may often use symptoms journals. They can also use these journals to track symptoms to help doctors identify an underlying health condition.

Symptoms journals can help you:

  • communicate more effectively with your doctor
  • minimize flare-ups
  • reduce your healthcare costs
  • get involved in your treatment plan

These tips can help you get the most out of your symptoms journal:

  • Keep the format simple.
  • Be consistent with the types of information you include.
  • Double-check each day that all the information you record is accurate.
  • Be honest. As tempting as it can be to leave off that late-night pantry raid or afternoon smoke break, this information is important.
  • Provide your doctor with a condensed summary of patterns you notice or significant changes that occur.

You’ll need a notebook (or just some blank paper) and a pen/pencil to start a symptoms journal. You’ll also need to keep a watch or clock handy to note when symptoms happen.

If you prefer tracking your data electronically, you can use an electronic word-processing document/spreadsheet or symptom-tracking app instead.

What you choose to include in your symptoms journal can vary, depending on the condition(s) in question and the severity of your symptoms.

Some things you may want to log in your symptoms journal include:

  • the dates and times of flare-ups
  • when you take medications
  • what and when you eat and drink
  • mood changes
  • sleep length and quality
  • the type and length of any exercise
  • your temperature
  • other symptoms (even if they seem unrelated)

Share your symptoms journal with your doctor. Let them know about symptom patterns you observe and new or unusual symptoms that develop.

They can then use this information to suggest medication or lifestyle changes and advise whether additional testing is necessary.

What are some good apps to use for symptom tracking?

Many apps can help you track your symptoms. You may have to test a few to find the one that suits your needs. Some possible apps for symptom journaling include: Flaredown, Symple, and Bearable.

What should I do if I forget to log something in my symptoms journal?

If you forget to include something in your symptoms journal, you can add details you remember as soon as you realize you missed an important entry. You can also note what may or may not have happened if the details are fuzzy.

How long should I use a symptoms journal?

Use a symptoms journal for as long as your doctor requests. You can continue to track symptoms beyond this if you find the data helpful. You can also start or continue a symptoms journal if your symptoms change.

If doctors need a little more information about your symptoms or want to monitor the symptoms of a chronic condition, they may ask that you keep a symptoms journal.

You don’t need much to keep a symptoms journal, but it’s important to include detailed information about your diet, exercise, sleep habits, moods, and symptoms. This information can then help identify triggers, make lifestyle or medication changes, and improve your quality of life.