Need to find the closest pizza delivery restaurant? Check the internet. Wondering what the least populated country in the world is? Do a search on the internet. (In case you were wondering, it is the Pitcairn Islands population 57.) Or are you looking for a gluten free, vegan lasagna? Go to the world-wide web. (And yes a recipe does exist for it.) The internet has changed the way we live. You can find virtually anything you need to know by doing a search. It’s amazing. However, one does need to approach it with caution.
My mom was diagnosed recently with bile duct cancer. Before confirmation she went through a series of tests. After we received information from each test, my sister would do research on the internet. And the results were always bad. Later when I was telling a nurse about my sister, she laughed and said, “On the internet you can go from a cough to cancer in three clicks”. My sister always had to do a fourth click and the results were never good.
Health information from the internet can certainly be helpful. I had a toothache one time and searched online for some home remedies. I found one using vanilla extract that soothed the pain for a few hours. However, often when we check symptoms, our research leads us to the worst self-diagnosis. Symptoms such as neck pain, coughing, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. can be searched and generate up to 20 diagnoses. And because the most severe consequences are listed alongside the less severe, the information can lead to confusion and anxiety.
If you ever do internet searches for health information, you should use credible and reliable sources. Personally, I use sites that are government based or run by non-profit health and human services sites. You want to be sure the information is current and recently updated as health information can change quickly. The last update can usually be found at the bottom of the page. Finally, health information should be clearly presented as fact, not opinion, and have a verifiable source such as a professional organization, article or a link to another website. Of course, your doctor can recommend good websites to visit.
Looking for information on the internet can be helpful in preparing for a doctor visit or gaining information to assist in decision making. But doctoring by internet should never replace an in-person visit with a doctor.
Some information in this blog was obtained from healthsmart! a publication of University of Kentucky HealthCare.