Health on the Internet: Use your Common Sense

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 3:09 p.m.

While there is a saying, “Physician, heal thyself!” I have yet to hear a saying, “Patient, heal thyself,” yet every day people are falling victim to this syndrome by searching out information on their health conditions through Google or Yahoo.  Anytime someone that I know comes down with a chronic condition, they always seem to know better than everybody else because they’ve gone through a few web sites and not only have diagnosed their own condition but come up with a cure.

Here’s another truism: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  The Internet is a very powerful fraud magnet and if you are suffering from a chronic health condition, you are probably at your most vulnerable, and may be open to trying some remedies that you’ve found on a web site.  This is a very bad idea and I beg you to think twice before parting with your hard earned cash.  At least, speak with your doctor and use your judgement before embarking on a journey that may wind up with an unhappy ending.

 Just recently, I became afflicted with a condition known as tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in the ears.  It’s actually like having crickets or cicadas hanging out there. In my desperation, I did something that I knew darned well that I should avoid.  I Googled tinnitus - big mistake.  I know that this is usually an incurable condition but I still searched on the Internet and found the usual advice that you will get no matter what ails you: quit drinking coffee, don’t eat chocolate or strong cheese.

That’s just great.  Not only will I continue to have an annoying sound whining at me 24-7, now you’re going to take away from me those last comfort foods that give me some kind of pleasure.  My friends, whether you have digestive troubles, tinnitus, or migraine headaches, you will be told to cut out chocolate, coffee, and cheese; it’s just no fair.  Yet on the sidebar, all kinds of remedies can be bought to cure everything from warts to tinnitus if you just give them your credit card number.  Yes, I may be desperate but I’m not stupid.

Facebook is another dangerous place to announce your illness.  I have a friend from my long past who is a follower of herbology and who swears that if I use a herbal concoction – and cut out chocolate, coffee, very cold foods like ice cream and some vegetables – I will be cured because my tinnitus is a symptom of weak kidneys and these herbs are the solution.

Now if I carelessly post the message that I’m enjoying a cup of coffee while perusing my Facebook page, I get a harassing message from my friend reminding me that I’m only damaging my health by drinking that cup of coffee.  It’s enough to make me cut my membership and go into hiding from overly well-intentioned Internet friends.

So here’s the deal: Make sure that you’re getting your health information from reliable sources, consult your doctor and don’t complain to your friends on Facebook because it will come back to haunt you in the end. Then go eat a Mars bar, and enjoy it.  



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