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25 August 2015

Should you do health checks online?

Browsing the net when you're experiencing some or other symptom is something that almost all patients do. Here's what health experts have to say about it.

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Any physical symptom that a patient experiences can be a cause of distress.  Even a regular fever may be assumed as a more serious condition such as meningitis or blood septicaemia. As a result, many patients turn to the Internet to self-diagnose their illness by simply entering phrases such as "symptoms of meningitis" in the search engines.   

While a quick online search of a specific symptom can help patients learn valuable and accurate information, placing too much stock in the search results can cause more harm than good, as these searches are done without proper context. This is according to a recent blog post published by Hippo.co.za, "How Health Experts Feel About Your Self Diagnosis," in which the comparison website asks several health experts their views regarding online self-diagnosis.

"Fast access to health information is incredibly beneficial in modern medicine and has revolutionised the way doctors treat patients," writes Health24.com resident GP, Dr Owen Wiese in the article.

"This, however, becomes problematic when patients interpret symptoms based on information found online. Most medical writers, when discussing a symptom, will cover all the possible causes – including the rare, often unlikely causes."

The most common symptoms that make people worry include:

- Fever

- Yellow sputum when coughing

- Abdominal pain

- Sore or stiff neck

- Headaches

Patients who self-diagnose online should exercise caution as the information posted may be a member of public who had similar experiences and giving a home remedy or an organisation selling its product. The ER spokesperson recommends that patients get a number of opinions from credible sources instead, or consult their on GP where they may be able to get these opinions. If these are unavailable, the last resort should be the Internet.

Your symptoms can at times be nothing but a false alarm which can result in unnecessary medical expenses when all you really needed was an over-the-counter medical prescription.

Health24 would, on this occasion, like to remind our visitors that the information provided on our page does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal opinion.

Get more insights on online self-diagnosis from the Hippo.co.za blog. 

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