It pays to be careful what websites you look at when seeking health information online – some websites are excellent and others are full of misinformation.
It’s really tempting when you’re sick to jump online and Google your symptoms, but there’s a lot of unreliable health information on the internet that can lead you down a rabbit hole resulting in an incorrect self-diagnosis. For example, if you Google “rash” you may end up thinking you have a life-threatening disease and days to live. Or, you might decide it's just hives when actually it's a sign of something more serious.
(Henrik Widegren, 2019)
So how do you know which websites, app or other media you can trust? Here are some tips to help you find reliable health information online:
- Stick to trusted local health websites such as Health Navigator, which is endorsed by the RNZCGP (Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners).
- Government websites, such as the Ministry of Health or other Government operated and funded websites, offer up-to-date reliable health information. Other websites affiliated with hospitals, universities or well-known public health advocacy groups also offer quality information.
- Choose health apps carefully. The Health Navigator website has a guide on choosing trusted health apps.
- Be wary of websites you’ve never heard of or that are trying to sell you supplements or a magic cure – they are probably dodgy.
- Who is sponsoring or hosting the website? Is it clear? If it’s not, it’s probably unreliable.
- If the information has a listed author, it’s more likely to be legitimate.
- Check for sources. Credible websites will reference their sources of health information.
- Look at several websites to get a broader range of information.
- Is the information up to date?
(Family Doctor, Australia, 2015)
Regardless of the information you find online, if you’re concerned about any of your symptoms or they aren’t getting better, please consult your GP or healthcare provider immediately.