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Where to Find Reliable Medical Information Online

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In the internet age of 2019, it’s easy to Google your way to a diagnosis, but it’s also a hypochondriac’s nightmare. Using WebMD’s symptom checker and entering “nausea” as a 24 year-old non-pregnant un-medicated female yields a “fair match” for anything from drug allergies to bacterial pneumonia.

When there’s so much accessible information, how do you know what to trust?

Nothing can substitute a qualified doctor. However, many Americans don’t want a hefty medical bill for a three-minute office visit resulting in a common cold diagnosis. While in no way does this article advocate diagnosing your illness online, here are a few solid sources that are likely more trustworthy than your average millennial health and wellness blog:

MedlinePlus

The government needs to have some degree of accountability towards its citizens, so it’s reasonable to assume they value accurate information. MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health’s online library of health information for the general public. The amount of information on this website is vast, so it may be a little challenging to sift through. However, if you want in-depth knowledge on a subject, this is a good place to start. In addition to wellness information, you can also learn about drugs, herbs, and supplements.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and its website has a bounty of information. It may be especially helpful to travelers, as it has a nifty collection of travel destinations and the diseases you may be exposed to in each. It also provides advice on vaccinations and preventative care. There is plenty of information on travel topics, from staying safe during animal interactions to the risks of sex tourism.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Similar to the CDC, the FDA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On the FDA website, you can access the latest information on food product recalls and disease outbreaks, among other things. You can also report concerns you may have with prescription drugs. If you’re conscious about what exactly goes into your body, this is the place to start.

UptoDate

UptoDate is a favorite among healthcare professionals and medical students. It requires a subscription to access its full library of articles, but the free version should be sufficient for general information. For those who want more, there are several prescription plans available for medical professionals, patients, students, and businesses. Laypeople can benefit from the plain-English “Basics” and “Beyond the Basics” articles.

Non-Profit Advocate Organizations

Non-profit advocate organizations are excellent resources for people who suffer from a chronic disease. Most importantly, they help patients find information written by people like them who have been there, felt that. They also offer in-depth information on a certain illness instead of just a one-page fact sheet. Furthermore, organizations provide those suffering from illness with important resources, from financial tips to emotional support.

Large non-profit organizations include:

Resources Based Outside the USA

Other English-speaking countries have great resources too. For example:

  1. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK offers health information through an incredibly user-friendly, clutter-free site.
  2. Health Direct is the Australian government’s version, and it too has a Symptom Checker that’s way more sophisticated than WebMD’s. It contains several disclaimers and reassurance messages that explain why they ask the questions they do. Entering the single symptom “nausea” as a 24 year-old non-pregnant, un-medicated female did not produce any plausible disease names; rather, the program advised a doctor visit in the next couple of days and offered some information on symptoms to be on alert for.
  3. Canada does not have a federal government-sponsored health information site, but individual provinces do provide hubs of information. For example, British Columbia’s HealthLinkBC offers resources available in other languages such as Arabic, Punjabi, Chinese, and of course French.

Yes, Buying Drugs Online can be Safe!

Pharmaceutical drugs in the USA, much like doctor visits, are expensive. Many Americans are now looking abroad for solutions. Countries like Canada have stricter regulations on pharmaceutical prices, so drugs abroad can be much cheaper there, but buying online from foreign sources can be risky. Illegitimate drug companies claim to sell drugs for cheap, offer drugs without prescriptions, and may even masquerade as credible sites.

However, there are safer sources out there. For example, Canadian pharmacy referral service Rx Connected requires customers to have a prescription. They only source from international and Canadian pharmacies and fulfillment centers that have passed strict regulation systems.

The Takeaway

Despite these extremely helpful resources, the takeaway remains the same: approach all information with a grain of salt (heck, even this article). We still have much to learn about the human body. What was labeled unhealthy yesterday is a superfood tomorrow (oh eggs, how you confuse me). Scientists make new medical discoveries every day. Another good resource for evaluating a source is Media Bias/Fact Check, a website that rates the biases and accuracies of informative sites.

When scouring for information on the internet, approach it from an informative lens only, not a diagnostic one. Always check with a qualified healthcare professional if you have a real concern. The last thing you want is to discover you have a serious illness you’d misdiagnosed yourself.

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