Need health advice? How can you tell what to trust?
If you want to better understand your diabetes, arthritis, heart failure or tennis elbow, there’s no shortage of information just a few clicks away. The web can also be useful for reading up on a treatment plan your physician has recommended, as this can put you more at ease with a decision or at least generate more questions you can bring back to him or her during your next visit. But what’s less helpful is using individual online searches to arrive at an actual medical diagnosis. “Searching for explanations for an symptom can lead to all sorts of wild speculation and worry, often without cause, and can potentially delay getting medical attention you truly need,” says Jeffrey S. Luther, MD, director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. “Instead, it’s best to consider your physician your most trusted source and to use online research as a mere basis for questions to ask your physician.” While you know better than to believe everything you read, we talked to top medical experts to help shine the light on obvious warnings that the health advice online might be leading you down the wrong path. Here’s what you need to know. You should, however, trust the brands of every product you use. Here are the most trusted brands in America.
It’s not produced by a reputable source
To ensure online information is credible, start with websites from well-known and science- and government-backed organizations. “Medical and scientific organizations present more solid evidence and background for a condition or question,” says Dr. Luther. “This includes specialty societies like American Heart Association and American Cancer Society; government entities like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health.” Also helpful are sites reviewed by medical associations like familydoctor.org, which is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals at the American Academy of Family Physicians. (Here are tips for finding a doctor you can trust.)