medical advice on the web

Do you look for medical advice on the web?  If you have a new and perhaps scary symptom, do you use google to check it out?  Or if you are prescribed something, do you look it up on the web?  If a friend describes a problem, are you inclined to see what the various sources on the web say?

Have you found any reliable sites for general medical advice?

My own use of the web with medical opinions is pretty irregular.  If I’m looking for something about which I know little or nothing, I look for consensus and then treat that as input to be checked out by another means.  There is a lot of consensus  about a number of things.

Sometimes I learn something important or see indications of something interesting.  I think, but am not sure, that some regulatory agency in the States has classified a lot of medicine in terms of its known effects during pregnancy.

There’s a huge consensus on the web about feline ringworm, a fungal

tarry, before the steroid-fed ringworn created 10 sores on his head
tarry, before the steroid-fed ringworn created 10 sores on his head

infection.  Almost all of it recommends thoroughly decontaminating your home.  That’s a lot of fun, and since I have a cat with the infection, I’ve been going around spraying lysol, vacuuming and so on.  But I just learned that the fungus is hyper abundant in my area, so that was pretty much pointless.  So  now we’re back to our mere four weeks of playing “find the cat’ every morning to give him medicine he actually likes to take.

I also looked up medicine for colds during pregnancy, after elp and Jender’s poignant remarks.  There’s a consensus on that, and it seems to say there are some safe-ish medicines.  Not, though, necessary sufficient reasons for taking them.

So please, if you feel like it, let us know what you think about using the web for medical advice and/or whether you do it.


If you’re wondering what’s going on, let me say that Tarry, short for Tarragon, is a rescue cat; we  got  him to help out with Basil, another rescue cat, who was going through an hysterical kittenhood.  Tarry came  with a bag of kitten presents from the rescue people and Basil broke into it and played with all the toys while Tarry hid under various beds.  Basil has recently become a placid, philosophical pudding cat:

"Is there an external world?  Why are some actions good and other bad?"
"Is there an external world? Why are some actions good and other bad?"

I may have gotten off topic, but please let us know what you think!

7 thoughts on “medical advice on the web

  1. What beautiful cats! Basil is profound.

    I mostly rely on WebMD. When my son was diagnosed with a chronic health problem, I also looked it up on CDC/NIH’s websites. If I’m really concerned about something, or if I want to get a sense of cutting-edge research, then I look at articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, too. I used to be more in touch with alternative medicine than I am now, and I still believe there’s a lot of wisdom in many alternative treatments, but some of them seem downright goofy and/or dangerous, so I try to maintain my skepticism. A lot of the stuff on the web seems to merit skepticism. Of course, there’s a lot of conventional medical wisdom that has no solid basis, too, like the “8 glasses of water a day” thing. I guess my overall approach is to try for a general knowledge of “universals” and then to assume that each case is different, which is my approach to ethics too. Sorry for the ramble.

  2. Rob, thanks so much. Very useful sites.

    lga, thank you for the comment; the idea of looking at actual science articles is important, and quite easy for most people who have electronic access to a library.

    I’m afraid I misrepresented Basil, partly as the result of a recent discussion about the cat, God, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Basil’s actual questions, as the somewhat vacant look in his blue eyes suggests, are more like “Where am I? Is there food somewhere? Can I go to sleep now?”

  3. Your cats are gorgeous! Is Basil part-Siamese?

    I nearly always look stuff up on the web (reading a variety of sites, but I often don’t really understand the medical journal articles, and thus find them not particularly helpful). Mostly I find that the web research helps me know what questions to ask my doctor.

  4. As with anything, if the site is not reputable, the advice is most likely not reputable. For humans, stick with sites like WebMD and the bible, Medline (doctors use it as well).

    For pets, stick with the Vet associations. And do not trust any one site: see if there is a consensus on several reputable sites.

  5. I don’t know, jj, “Where am I?” could be pretty profound too. I wouldn’t want to underestimate Basil. My own cat’s caption would probably have to read, “Are you telling me that dog is still in my house?”

  6. helensch, Thank you. Basil is probably mix-himalayan, which means he’ll have both Siamese and Persian in him. Tarry looks quite like a snowshoe, which is largely Siamese, with a color suppressant gene. However, he could instead have a tonkinese in his background, given his light green eyes. Basil, who has really become a pudding, has none of the siamese personality, but Tarry is totally wound up and extremely fond of human beings, both common ‘oriental’ traits.

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