Medical Advice is just one of the many things we can find out online these days. Whatever the symptoms, whatever the condition, there are websites galore devoted to medical and health issues. Googling for medical advice isn´t like looking up a train timetable, however. So what should you consider when looking up medical advice online?
1. Dr. Google
Repeat after me: Google is a search engine, not a doctor. The internet is probably best used for searching for more information once you have been diagnosed, not for diagnosing the problem yourself. Don´t rely on a web search to tell you what is, or may be, wrong with you.
2. How Reliable is the Source?
Your health isn´t something you should take for granted, and neither should you assume that a source of online medical advice is trustworthy. Government-funded sites or those provided by medical bodies are likely to be more reliable than those provided by someone without medical qualifications.
3. Hypochondriac Heaven
The internet is a dangerous place for anyone obsessed with their health. The slightest symptom will have them frantically searching to identify their imaginary ailments, and they will convince themselves that they have all kinds of deadly diseases. Even those who are less obsessive can still end up incorrectly self-diagnosing.
4. Trained Experts
The internet can provide useful information but it is no substitute for a real doctor. When in doubt, consult a doctor – that´s what they´re for. A doctor can reassure you that you are fine, or order tests if necessary. Looking up medical advice online is not going to provide this.
When reading websites covering medical issues, you should ask yourselves this: Do they have an agenda? Many sites are funded by private companies, who see an ´informative´ website as a way of advertising their products and services. It´s good to take charge of your own health, but not if it means wasting your money, and maybe even taking dangerous advice.
6. Same Symptom, Different Disease
Another problem with looking for medical advice online is that it can be confusing. Any one symptom can often fit many different conditions. So, again, it´s best to see a doctor, who can examine you and make an appropriate diagnosis.
It´s not just hypochondriacs who should beware of looking for medical information on the internet. Articles and web pages can make you worry that you have some dreadful disease, just because something in it sounds familiar. It´s most likely nothing to do with you.
8. Downright Dangerous
The advice given on some sites may actually be dangerous, where the proponent is not medically qualified. This can be a risk with some people who are against conventional medicine. I´m all in favour of alternative medicine, where appropriate. Some people do not acknowledge that conventional alternatives may be necessary.
Searching for online medical advice can be useful. It can provide a lot of relevant information, plus you can find out about charities and services. However, what you read online always has to be taken with caution, so use your judgement and don´t rely on it as a substitute for proper medical care. Have you ever come across any online medical advice that was incorrect or even dangerous?
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