"Always laugh when you can; it is cheap medicine."
Lord Byron famously quipped, "Always laugh when you can; it is cheap medicine." For many of us, enjoying a good belly laugh sounds much more appealing than a trip to the doctor. Millions of us would rather Google our symptoms instead of reaching for the phone to make an appointment.
Health information on the Internet is obviously a good thing. It can even be a lifesaver. For someone who has been diagnosed with a condition, the Internet offers a spectrum of support, from factual info to online support via forums. You can even get free professional advice.
But, along with the benefits, there are many pitfalls to using the Internet to guide our health decisions. Health websites can give us the reassurance that that chest pain is certainly just indigestion. They can also cause panic or lead us into ill-advised choices. Here are some things to bear in mind when using Internet health resources, along with some scenarios when a website is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting with a health professional.
. Either make sure you use a health website that is shiningly reputable or double, triple and quadruple-check your information. You are probably not so gullible as to believe that spider web extract cures cancer but Vitamin X for arthritis may seem more persuasive. Never go on the advice of a website that is pushing the product. They may be right and many commercial sites do give quality information. Just do not take that for granted. National charity websites are often the best first port of call, since they have less of an axed to grind and provide information in a user-friendly style. Many have help lines or quality moderated question forums.
. Remember that medical professionals do not always agree amongst themselves. In addition, positions and treatments are revised all the time. The best health websites will be regularly updated. They will be upfront about any uncertainties about diagnosis and the pros and cons of treatments. They will stress that the information provided can never, ever take the place of a professional examination.
. Understand your symptoms. Symptoms X and Y may well be a sign of some horrific disease. That doesn't mean you have it. It's easy to read about a condition and think that you tick the boxes, when in fact you would have to have the symptoms much more severely to qualify. Falling into this trap applies especially when getting knowledge from websites designed for medical professionals. These assume a certain depth of knowledge on the part of the reader. The difference between the symptoms of a nasty cold and double pneumonia is, crucially, a matter of degree. It's easy to wrongly assess your symptoms and over-react.
. It's also easy to miss symptoms. You may be aware of A, B and C. A doctor or nurse may notice key signs that it would take you a year of reading to come across and might still not recognize in yourself.
. Beware of 'medical students syndrome'. It is well documented that student medics are prone to imagining they have the disease they are studying. They do. not Since many symptoms overlap with everyday aches and pains it's easy to imagine you have what you are reading about.
. If you are sure you have condition X or Y, get a professional opinion. It could set your mind at rest and in some instances it could save your life. There are a variety of situations in which messing about with self-diagnosis can waste critical time.
. If you think you have any of the symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, arm/neck/jaw pain, breathlessness, blue lips, clamminess) do not bother looking up 'heartburn'.
. The same applies to symptoms of stroke (facial weakness, problems with arm movement, speech impairment). If you wait it may be too late for potentially lifesaving drugs to be administered.
. Never waste time on Internet diagnosis if you have a head injury and/or lose consciousness. Rather be safe than sorry.
. Never let Internet advice delay you taking your kids to the doctor. Of course, you would not anyway...
The Big Plus of Internet Health Resources
If you use health websites intelligently you can do yourself a lot of favors. Health education and public awareness are key factor in preventing a spectrum of diseases and conditions. A degree of self-awareness and commitment to self-care is something that we all need to stay healthy. Health websites help us to do that.
Using health websites could help you pick up on something that urgently needs attention (or you might realize that you are panicking needlessly). Sadly, since not all doctors are on the ball all the time, they might empower you to insist on the attention that you need when your overworked GP tries to fob you off with antibiotics. ('It's just a virus...') If you have an embarrassing condition it may be comforting to discover how many others have it too and that there are solutions available.
The smart rule when it comes to self-diagnosis and treatment is: do. not Even doctors do not trust themselves to diagnose themselves. So why would you?
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”