What is your initial reaction when you start feeling ill? Do you rush to your GP? Do you call your friend at med school for advice? There seems to be an ever growing number of people who impulsively turn to the biggest source of information for medical assistance – the Internet. Googling your symptoms and browsing for the most obvious cause is a common self-treatment technique used by people of all ages, but mostly teenagers and adolescents. The question is: is this the best and most efficient way of addressing such a serious issue?
Familiarize the risks
The most important thing we need to keep in mind when seeking answers online is where does the information come from. The web is a dangerous place to be looking for facts since only one click can determine if you end up reading a scientific research paper or some blogger’s very personal opinion on a hot topic. Bear in mind that there is always going to be a study to support any kind of agenda. There is a high likelihood that the person who published the so-called study is actually funded by an organization that has certain benefits from such results.
Unfortunately, health and proper nutrition are the core industries of many large international companies who need to control the flow of information and manage the ‘trends in lifestyle choices’. That’s one of the reasons today you may find that the best cure for a cold is homemade chicken soup, while the next day it’s going to be the latest flu-drug just released in local pharmacies.
So, what is the alternative? Waiting for the hospital to schedule your appointment and the first vacant slot is in 6 days? Or going to a private clinic to do all the expensive lab analysis? These may be the reasons why more and more people turn to the web for answers. FrontlineER reports a survey conducted by the British Medical Journal which identified more than 20 different applications that served as symptom checkers. Their overall success rate at pointing out the correct diagnosis and treatment was under 50%. This goes to show that smart phones are, in fact, not smart enough to be able to replace the human factor when it comes to resolving illnesses.
The human factor may be found on the internet, however, it should not be taken for granted. If you are confused by the symptoms your body is giving away, you could search for similar cases on public forums and chat rooms. It is a good way to get in touch with people who have had experience in solving their health problems, but keep in mind that everyone is a unique organism and your metabolism may not react the same way to a treatment someone else has gone through.
Always think twice
To sum up, although it is plausible to get useful advice online, you should do proper research in order to get as much information as possible before you make a decision on how to treat your current condition. Make sure you are able to decipher what your body is trying to tell you and take other people’s advice only if you are sure they know what they are talking about. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. A licensed doctor is your best choice, anyhow, even for a second opinion.