Asking the internet for medical advice is something millions of us do every day. In fact, a recent survey from PharamcyOutlet.co.uk found that 39% of Brits regularly use Google and other search engines to self-diagnose commonplace health problems such as a sore throat or a nagging headache. But, given the amount of unreliable information online, it’s no wonder that only half of all symptom-checker websites actually provide accurate results.
The internet can be a reliable source of knowledge, but the sheer size and scale of information it hosts can often make it extremely difficult to find the right information. Nevertheless, when sources are properly checked, using ‘Dr Google’ can actually work in some minor cases. Providing responses to everyday issues; self-diagnosing can be a simple and easy method for people to find quick answers and treatments to common ailments.
However, for major health issues, both physical and mental, nothing beats advice provided by a medical professional. Indeed, while online search engines can provide general information, doctors and pharmacists can professionally assess the symptoms people are suffering and offer the appropriate treatment.
Therefore, while self-diagnosing online is a quick and easy method for care, there are situations when medical advice should always be sought. Luckily for you we spoke to Hitesh Dodhia, Superintendent Pharmacist at PharmacyOutlet.co.uk who has given us some handy tips on when to avoid self-diagnosis…
Minor symptoms such as a cough and a sore throat can be easy to self-diagnose online. However, when these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, they may indicate a more serious health problem. Take a bad cough for instance. Should this persist over a prolonged period and show no sign of improvement, this could be the result of a more grave illness, such as asthma, lung cancer, tuberculosis, bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or a bad infection that requires antibiotics. Therefore, for minor symptoms that don’t go away, people need to see a medical professional rather than searching for treatments online.
Mental health problems
One of the greatest dangers of self-diagnosis is misunderstanding the cause of a symptom. While self-assessing how you feel may seem straightforward, in reality, misdiagnosis is far too common. Serious medical issues can sometimes be the cause of neurological problems that affect an individual’s mental health. Therefore, if you assume that you have a mental- health condition through self-diagnosis, you run the risk of not identifying a major physical issue that is underpinning the issue.
Furthermore, mental health problems themselves are also difficult to diagnose online. Often proving unreliable results, mental health symptoms can be exaggerated or misunderstood by online search engines that cannot assess the complexity of the issue, nor the profile of the individual sat behind the keyboard. Although websites such as online forums can provide quick and general advice, therapists and medical professions are able to provide long-term bespoke care, which over time should lessen the impact mental health problems can have.
Wounds that won’t heal
While most injuries heal naturally of their own accord, sometimes cuts and scars struggle to heal. If a wound hasn’t completely healed within six weeks, medical treatment is highly advisable. Providing quality hands-on care, a doctor will able to tell if the lack of healing is due to more serious issues such as poor circulation. Although, online services can be used to identify the problems preventing wounds from healing, self-treating deep cuts may result in people infecting themselves or even causing effects to worsen.
Being out of breath
Breathing rapidly is natural when exercising. But waking up in the middle of the night wheezing or frequently finding yourself unable to breathe properly is a cause for concern. Turning to search engines will likely lists a plethora of potential explanations, but how does someone identify the one that’s right in their case? The answer is that usually they can’t.
Therefore, to get to the bottom of the problem, people must seek a medical professional immediately. They will be able to not only diagnose your condition but also provide you with the right medicine if needed to provide immediate relief.
This is one of the major benefits of going to a medical professional, such as pharmacist or a GP, over self-diagnosing online. While online-tools can identify symptoms and recommend treatments, they lack the components needed for proper relief. By entering a GP surgery or a pharmacy, patients are far more likely to be able to receive quality care that solves their immediate symptoms.
Why self-diagnosis isn’t the answer to major symptoms
What unites all these symptoms are the severity of the problems. While online tools make it easier to find solutions to common health problems, their solutions for major illnesses should be taken with more than a pinch of salt. In fact, in some cases, the converse can also be true: if you search online for symptoms associated with the flu and you can get results that suggest there is something far more extreme behind your illness.
What’s more, using an online tool for a persistent symptom or major health problem is simply not the right approach to take, and ignoring professional help will likely only lead to bigger problems. So, if people find themselves in one of the above situations, they must seek the advice of a medical professional.