Using the internet for medical advice

Posted on July 30th, 2012

Recently, Junior caught mono. At first, I didn’t know what it was that he had. I figured it might be a little virus or something. So naturally, instead of doing something completely crazy and irrational like, you know, calling his doctor, I turned to the scariest place on earth for medical advice: the internet.

Holy cow. That was a mistake.

First of all, he was immediately diagnosed with 129 diseases that covered his symptoms. Everything was listed there, from spinal meningitis to cat scratch disease to a lot of diseases that ended with “coccosis.” Strangely, no mention of a mono or even a common cold, which obviously meant I should panic immediately because Junior was clearly going to die.

However, I am an optimist. Also? I suspect Junior is too much of a smart-mouthed teen to die, so I moved on to google advice on viruses.

Yeah. That mistake number 2. The advice ranged from  “drink OJ and see your doctor if symptoms worsen” to “my cousin had that and 4 days later we found him dead on the couch, still watching ‘Matlock’ reruns” to “they say my boyfriend died of gunshot wounds, but I’m sure he died of a virus before I shot him, so please donate to my defense fund so I can prove myself innocent” to my personal favorite “drink a lot of wine because it has grapes in it and everybody knows grapes cure a virus.”  I think it goes without saying I found the wine advice to be incredibly helpful and I will use it even when I’m not sick as a preventative.

Junior? Yeah, not so much because he’s not legal drinking age.

Sadly, though, along with the somewhat questionable advice were images. Holy cannoli, what the heck are these people thinking? Who puts pictures of gross diseases on the internet? I mean, all I have to do is google some symptoms for a virus, and I am treated to photos of rashes and infected throats and all kinds of disgusting disease stuff. Please, people. Those images should come with warning labels. Some of us have sensitive eyes. We don’t want to have our retinas burned out with images of rashes.

Plus, who does that? I mean if you were sick would you sit around and think, “ooh, I’m so bored with ‘Matlock’ reruns, but this rash is so cool, I should take a photo and upload it so everyone on the entire planet can see how cool it is?” Um, no. No. Normal people don’t do that. Normal people do not share their rashes in any way, shape or form. We don’t pass them on to unsuspecting victims. We don’t upload photos of them to the internet. We keep our rashes private.

Good Lord, people, it’s common courtesy. Nobody wants to see your rash.

Anyway, after my eyes stopped burning, I googled medical advice, figuring that would take me to sites run by actual medical professionals. Turns out the term “actual medical professional” can be somewhat misleading. For example, I think of an actual medical professional as a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a physician’s assistant. Or even possibly someone who, at some point in the last 50 years, has worked in a hospital in some capacity. The internet has other ideas. For example, under the internet definition of actual medical professional, my dog could qualify, despite the fact that she walks on 4 legs, poops in public and didn’t even pass obedience school, let alone get a decent score on her MCAT.

And if you do get to an actual site, purportedly run by actual medical professionals that do not walk on 4 legs, you still get images. Let’s just say that if you are eating your lunch because you have given up on diagnosing your child, you probably don’t want to just pop onto one of those sites – visions of toenail fungus can put you off your food. Forever.

And after all of that, I decided to call Junior’s doctor. What a novel concept. Also? Mono sucks, people. Junior wanted you to know that.

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