Sick Kids - Do You Google Their Symptoms?

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My six-year-old had a high fever on Thursday, no other symptoms ... the kind of bug I hate. When it's a cold or a stomach flu, at least I know what we're getting into. Fever with no symptoms is a troubling mystery. Two days after her fever broke, she was still complaining of joint pain so I went off to consult Dr. Google.

After five minutes of reading about rheumatic fever and Lyme disease, I closed my laptop with a shudder. (She's fine, by the way.)

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In so many ways the Internet makes us better patients and better partners in our children's health care (and in our own, as well). I mean, knowledge is power, right? I've impressed our pediatrician more than once with my comprehension of basic childhood healthcare, but I've annoyed her too. (Especially that time I had to correct her dosing on a prescription ... whoo boy.)

But while the Internet is chock full of advice, not all of it is good. In fact, says pediatrician Dr. Robert Nohle, Googling symptoms can "be a gamble."

woman with laptopThe problem is that on the Internet, everyone is an expert, and it's hard to sort the factual from the sensational. According to Dr. Nohle, three quarters of patients who used the Internet to research their health condition didn't confirm that the information was actually correct or from a reliable source. Chat rooms and forums can be an invaluable source of advice and support for parents, but the people who run them are just that ... parents, not doctors. And they shouldn't be handing out medical advice.

Dr. Nohle suggests three ways parents can use the Internet appropriately when they're concerned about their child's health:

  • Take the information to your pediatrician so you can discuss it together.
  • Ask your pediatrician or doctor to recommend good sites, or stick to those that end in .gov or .org.
  • Join a reputable online support group if the health condition is on-going.

If you go online when your kids are sick, tell us why:
I don't always trust my doctor's judgement.3 (8.1%)
To try and figure out if I need to see a doctor in the first place.22 (59.5%)
To get as much information as I can about my child's health.10 (27.0%)
I'll tell you in comments.2 (5.4%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.