It’s an undoubted fact the internet has become a huge collection of information and experiences, the trick is spotting what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s downright dangerous. It has become such a huge part of our lives that we can search for literally anything and we’ll be given ample information on a subject – hello Google University! Whether it’s the American Civil War, exotic travel adventures, or how to find your perfect swimsuit, we can use the internet to learn virtually anything we want – and usually for free.
However, when it comes to health advice, there are some concerns that you need to keep in mind, trust me. While the internet is a useful place to look for immediate medical care and attention (like when Poppy got into rat poison and I immediately googled to see what I needed to do), there are some caveats. In this article, we’re going to explain a few pros and cons of using the internet for health advice and how to get the most out of it while also keeping you safe.
- The internet can reveal medicines and supplements you never knew about. Now realize I say with complete caution. You should never ever take medications not prescribed by a doctor. BUT, I’m all about finding natural remedies for small indications – we don’t always need prescription meds to fix things. The internet is full of alternate and homeopathic remedies that can help you feel better without needing to rely on medication (like peppermint oil or lavender for relieving headaches!). The internet also gives you access to buy eurycomanone (a pure herbal remedy for ED), vegan-friendly products and other hard-to-obtain supplements that would be hard to find in stores. Again, I caution – just because the internet gives you free access to purchase these items yourself, you should always consult your doctor, nurse practitioner, PA, before taking something without fully knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Educate yourselves – know the signs and symptoms of possible side effects to monitor for and what to do should you experience one of them or an allergic reaction.
- You get immediate care and there are internet-based doctors available. There are now plenty of internet-based doctors that can give you a thorough examination and diagnosis over the internet using a camera. Of course, this isn’t the best way to diagnose your issues (your doctor can’t exactly physically examine you) but it’s a fantastic way to get immediate care for common issues. I love that this is now becoming more of a thing. Sometimes we don’t have immediate access to healthcare or a medical professional – but internet-based examinations are expanding the availability of immediate care AND helping our emergency rooms. These internet professionals can assess you and tell you whether or not the ER is even needed, which saves everyone time: you, the ER staff, and the patients waiting to be taken care of for actual emergencies.
- There is ample information to give you a thorough understanding of a condition. Whether you want to go in-depth and learn about your illness and condition or just want to understand how to prevent it from getting worse, there is ample information available on the internet to help you learn.
- Self-diagnosis can be incredibly dangerous. Many people self-diagnose themselves using the internet and then develop depression, serious anxiety, or other issues because they think they have something that they don’t. Seriously – I’ve seen it! They might think they have cancer or some crazy invasive tumor when it’s something common and easily treatable, if anything at all. If you want professional advice then the internet is not the place for it. Instead, treat the internet as a way of getting a good understanding of something, but not as the final diagnosis. I can remember being a student in nursing school and learning all the different disease pathophysiologies – y’all I thought I had so many of the diseases and illnesses we were learning simply because it was so easy to convince myself I was manifesting those symptoms. So don’t fool yourselves into something you don’t have.
- Many of the products you see are fake or scams. There are plenty of supplements and diet pills that promise you everything on the internet. I’ll just be blunt and say diet pills are crap and more dangerous than you might think. Anything selling you a fast fix is NEVER worth it. These products tend to be enticing and although some are real, most of them are fake and won’t work–they’re just after your money. Do your research and make sure you don’t buy into these scams or harm yourself because you fell for a gimmick.
- A lot of advice is oversimplified and can be misleading. Many doctors are now seeing patients that come in with incorrect information or a misdiagnosis performed by the patient themselves, resulting in a worsened condition or some other dangerous consequence.
So – in a nutshell – the internet is a great place to look for certain health advice and get information on treatments and supplements that you’ve never heard of, BUT it’s always best to check twice and to always see a medical professional if something has become life-threatening or difficult to deal with. And as a general rule of thumb, always always always call 911 if someone has shortness of breath or trouble breathing, changes in their level of consciousness, speech, or motor skills, or are actively bleeding (lots of blood, not a paper cut).