The dangers of online symptom checkers…

Image from Health Snap

So last week someone I live with was in hospital with a nasty stomach bug. Fortunately he seems to have made a full recovery and is back home. But obviously when I started to develop minor symptoms I panicked. I went onto WebMD and put in my symptoms to the site’s checker service and quite frankly it was frightening.

Apparently there’s a whole host of things I could have – and that’s without even saying about the housemate’s recent hospitalisation with the bug.

I would urge everyone to be cautious when using these sites. The last thing you need when you’re not feeling on top form is to be told a bit of bloating needs urgent care… Pretty much everything says go to a&e, even though it might just be a bit of a stomach upset.

And apparently I’m not the only person who feels this way. As posted in the Henry Ford Blog:

For example: You wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in the lower left side of your stomach. You get up and walk around, but it doesn’t go away. So you search the internet for “left-side stomach pain.” You find out it could be constipation, or diverticulitis, or kidney stones, or a bladder infection, or gas — or cancer. Your mind goes right to the cancer. Oh no, what if it’s pancreatic cancer? And then you can’t sleep, so you keep surfing.”

Unfortunately my Dr’s surgery has quite an unsympathetic receptionist and told me I have to wait until tomorrow (now today) to speak to a doctor on the ‘gp advice line’. Well that service only lasts for one hour and I have tried. But after being on hold for at least 40 minutes it shut off so I’ll just have to try again tomorrow and hope for more success.I’m not too concerned; I think like many others at this time I’m just being uber-precautious.

Just everyone, be careful about what you read online. Right now we all need to stay safe from coronavirus and the last thing we need is more stress. Cos let’s face it – hospital is awful at the best of times, but when being there puts you at risk of a worse disease, well, what’s the best option. Do you go for treatment? Or do you stay home and hope to battle through it?

Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

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