People search the Internet for all types of information for a wide variety of reasons, including simple curiosity, academic research, professional research, addresses, health facts, jobs, and countless more. When searching for answers to health questions or the meaning behind an array of physical symptoms, the accuracy of the information obtained is crucial. Many of the billion or more websites addressing health issues certainly do deliver accurate and reliable information, but they also contain copious amounts of misinformation.
Things to Consider When Searching the Web
- Narrow down the search. Rather than simply typing the word menopause symptoms into a search engine, such as Google, use the advanced search option to narrow your search. The advanced search feature allows people to find exact phrases and spellings, such as non-hormonal treatments for menopause symptoms. This results in a much more concise listing of websites that possibly contain information about your intended topic.
- Start with sites ending in .gov or .edu. Sites with these designations are associated with the federal or state government or educational institutions and usually contain more up to date and accurate information. Many sites ending in .com or .net may also provide reliable information, but this designation also indicates sites with commercial status. Commercial sites often exist to sell products and will publish misleading or one-sided information to that end.
- Verify the date of the information. Look for information dating no more than five years past. While information on a variety of topics, historical facts and topographical data, for example, may retain reliability and accuracy for much longer, health and scientific data do not.
Self Diagnosis is a Tangled Web
People who constantly turn to the Web for every set of physical symptoms they experience may incorrectly start to think they have a serious condition, causing unnecessary stress and worry. No health-related website, regardless of how accurate and reliable the content, can replace a face-to-face visit with the doctor. Only a physician or qualified healthcare professional can decide whether a set of symptoms warrants further scrutiny or treatment.
This list is comprised of websites found to provide reliable and accurate health-related information.
- MedlinePlus.gov – a good place to begin any medical or health-related search. This site contains the most recent healthcare trends and news.
- PDRHealth.com – a digital version of the Physician’s Desk Reference. Search this site for information about prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- KidsHealth.org – a great place to find reliable information about symptoms and ailments that commonly trouble children.
- FamilyDoctor.org – sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, this site provides a listing of possible diagnoses for a set of symptoms as well as preventive advice.
- PlasticSurgery.org – this site offers comprehensive information about various plastic surgery procedures, recovery times, average cost, and what to ask prospective plastic surgeons.
- Or-live.com – watch live video of actual surgical procedures on this site. Visitors watching can email questions about the surgeries. A specially designated operating room specialist answers them in real time.
Savvy surfers can find many more reliable sources of health information on the Web, but these represent some of the best places to start. Remember, your physician knows you, your health history, and how any symptoms you have relate to you as an individual. Think of Internet sources as purely informational.