10.24.2017

Bodily errors. Can the internet be bad for your health?

The internet is playing a bigger role in just about everything we do now. It has been the source of countless moral and security panics, some more valid than others. But is it good for your health? In particular, is it good for how we make decisions about our health? Nowadays, people are turning to the online world to find what ails them more and more often. But they’re not always finding the right answers.

Finding what’s wrong
The instant access to information is part of what makes it so attractive. But it also makes it dangerous. In one study, 43% of people have acted on their health after Googling their symptoms. But the problem is that Google doesn’t always offer the right symptoms first. In fact, in some cases, less than 40% of well-trafficked health advice websites have offered the wrong advice on issues. That figure, in particular, was about the sites offering information on baby sleep issues. Just because it’s visible doesn’t mean that it’s trustworthy. Even if it is, if you use the internet to diagnose yourself, you could be making snap judgements that don’t take into account the various other contextual factors of your health that could help your doctor make the right call.
Getting to know your condition
There is a right way to use the information finding power of the internet, however. If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like diabetes or arthritis, it can be used to supplement your understanding of it and to help you find methods of treating the symptoms. There are some great, trustworthy sources of health information like WebMD, Mercola, and Healthline. It’s not a bad idea to follow bloggers that might share your condition if you want some insight, too. Just make sure you take any actionable tips as suggestions and don’t make any big decisions without consulting your doctor first.

The digital doctor’s room
Nowadays, you might not necessarily have to visit them in order to get that advice, either. Virtual doctor visits are still relatively new, but more practices are offering the chance to conference with a specialist with little more than an internet connection and a webcam. This can be a great way to get advice on conditions you currently have or to tackle long-term health issues like back pain and heart health. However, many practitioners are concerned about patients using these practices for conditions that can’t really be understood without a real face-to-face and find them entirely ineffective for urgent care.
There’s a pill for that
There is a plethora of places, legitimate and otherwise, to get medication online. There are also concerns with counterfeit medications and people self-medicating without their doctor’s say-so. Never get medication online unless you’ve been given the go ahead by your doctor. Getting prescriptions online can save a lot of money and help those who might have barriers to accessing nearby pharmacies due to issues like disability. Just be careful as to where you get them. A couple signs worth looking for are things like ‘.pharmacy’ in their web address or a ‘VIPPS’ seal on their home page. That stands for “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites”, which means they’ve been thoroughly screened and approved by the NABP.
The best way to use the internet is to supplement what you already know. Googling symptoms can be dangerous, but there’s plenty of great advice out there if you use the right sources. Similarly, there are services that can help to bolster your doctor’s services, but only if you’re using the right ones. If you’re using the internet to determine anything health related, make sure it’s only through channels you know you can trust.u

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