Avoid Using the Internet to Self-diagnose

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by Tito Oye |

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The internet has been a blessing in many of our lives. It is an extremely handy tool, and a quick Google search can turn any of us into a mechanic, a Michelin chef, or a gardener. However, the internet can be a scary place when it comes to researching health. 

Googling a set of seemingly mild symptoms can easily result in the belief that you have a range of conditions and need immediate medical attention. Or, it could lead to you neglect something serious, which could ultimately have worse consequences. 

An example of this is Googling a headache you’re experiencing on the left side on your head. The results could range from migraines, tension headaches, glaucoma, to a brain tumor … whoa, that escalated quickly, right? Yep, and so does the worry alongside it.

Since sickle cell affects the blood, symptoms can occur all over the body — basically, any area that the blood reaches — so the urge to Google when something doesn’t seem right is not uncommon.

This is a feeling I know all too well. But if the past has taught me anything it’s that I am quick to panic and worry, so I don’t plan to self-diagnose again. Instead of using the internet when I have a health-related concern, I do the following things:

Speak to a healthcare practitioner

It is best to speak to someone who works in the field — ideally, someone who is already familiar with you and your medical history. If that is not possible a general practitioner will do. They will be able to give you a consultation and tailored medical advice. This is a more direct approach compared to searching for answers on the internet.

Speak to the sickle cell community 

The internet can be used to connect with people all over the world. There are many groups and forums full of fellow sickle cell warriors who are more than willing to share their experiences. Through interacting with such groups one can share their current situation and ask for advice. Feel free to use our Sickle Cell Disease News Forums to ask questions and to see responses to questions that have already been asked!

Ask a friend 

When I’m not able to speak to a healthcare practitioner and haven’t found the answers I’m looking for, I call a friend who is well-informed about my health and ask them to do a Google search. I tell them my concern, and they tell me their opinion based on what they know about me and my health. This opinion always comes with the disclaimer that I should consult a doctor, but speaking to a friend calms my nerves.

When my friends do this search on the internet, they are always wary of the sites they retrieve information from. They make an effort to avoid websites such as Wikipedia that can easily be edited by members of the public without a thorough vetting process. Instead, they use websites that are supported by the government such as the World Health Organization, the National Health Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also corroborate the information that they find on other sites to ensure it is as accurate as possible. 

If you or a friend end up on the internet for solutions, speak to a healthcare professional to verify what you learn — irrespective of what you see.

What other resources do you use besides the internet?


Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


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