Wednesday November 20, 2019

Stop treating Google as your doctor

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New Delhi: Are you among those who log into Google every time you are down with body ache, fever or cold, only to get more confused and scared? Many young Indians with smartphones in their hands are falling prey to the “Google-as-your-doctor” phenomenon and the dangerous trend is on the rise in the country, health experts feel.

Although there is nothing wrong in checking your symptoms or trying to find more about your illness on the internet, they say that one should know where to stop.

The ideal situation is to use search engines only when someone is diagnosed with a certain medical condition and wants to know more about it. The information available on the internet should be used to educate oneself rather than trying to find a cure for the disease.

“The biggest problem is that the internet is loaded with enormous information which could be correct too but then your symptoms could be similar to some other disease which may cause confusion. Therefore, correct diagnosis of your health abnormality is very important,” Dr Satnam Singh Chhabra, head (neuro-spine surgeon) at the Sir Gangaram Hospital here, said.

He has observed many young Indian adults getting hooked to the internet to look for every little thing, even self-diagnosis.

For instance, if one has a health abnormality, then the instant reaction is to Google the symptoms before seeing an expert or a doctor.

“But one should be careful as people normally look for symptoms to get rid of curiosity and anxiety but to the contrary, it just worsens the scenario and leaves them more anxious,” Chhabra said.

According to Dr (Prof) Raju Vaishya, senior consultant (orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon) at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, one should beware of getting trapped into “Google-as-your-doctor” behaviour as this may cause more harm than good.

“Yes, there is an increasing surge in young Indians with smartphones who google common health symptoms. I find more such patients coming to me with queries related to hand, wrist and elbow,” Vaishya said.

Dr R K Singal of the BLK Super-specialty Hospital had an interesting case study to share: “Once a patient in his mid-30s came to me with a severe headache. He told me that he thought he had a brain tumour. After diagnosis, we found that the headache was due to a prolonged sore throat and rhinopharyngitis (common cold).”

“The patient visited me after a month of self-diagnosis through the internet. Whatever he found on the internet made him believe that he had a brain tumour,” Singal said.

According to Singal, people in the 25-40 age group are more hooked on to the internet and such self-diagnosis only increases one’s anxiety.

Dr Rahul Gupta, a senior neuro and spine surgeon at Fortis Hospital in Noida, is attending to many young Indians who come to him with weird health queries after scanning Google.

“Self-medication via the internet can be dangerous. Patients at times do not follow our advice and waste our time with silly questions,” he stressed.

According to Gupta, Google is good when it comes to searching for a good doctor, checking spellings of a medication and reading about general health-related issues.

Another danger of self-diagnosis is that you may think that there is more wrong with you than there actually is.

“For example, if you had insomnia, inattention and depression, you may believe that you have a sleep disorder or major depression. Thus, you may make things worse by worrying more as well,” Singal noted.

Self-diagnosis is also a problem when you are in a state of denial about your symptoms.

One may think that generalised body aches started with a worsening of mood, but a doctor may elect to do an electrocardiogram for chest pain that reveals possible coronary artery disease, the experts felt.

Are health websites trustworthy when it comes to answering health symptom queries?

“I don’t see any harm in doing that because it’s about your health after all. In fact, a lot of times my patients come back with queries after surfing about their health abnormality on the internet,” Chhabra said.

So, educate yourself as much before or after you visit your doctor, but let the experts do their job. Let your doctor prescribe you a treatment well-suited for your ailment.

“One should be wise enough to understand which is an authentic website with relevant content as there are a lot of paid sites which exist only to make business,” Chhabra advised.

Vaishya asked youngsters to share their internet-acquired knowledge with the doctor but not to force it upon the doctor to follow it.

“Trust your doctor more than Google,” Gupta summed up. (IANS), (image courtesy: syndicateroom.com)

  • devika todi

    this has major relevance in today’s world. it is a common notion, that if you have common cold and you end up googling it, if the internet is to believed blindly, you could be suffering from cancer!
    leave the job to the experts. do not trust everything you see on the internet.

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  • devika todi

    this has major relevance in today’s world. it is a common notion, that if you have common cold and you end up googling it, if the internet is to believed blindly, you could be suffering from cancer!
    leave the job to the experts. do not trust everything you see on the internet.

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Report: Express Grieving Conditions for Sanitation Workers in Developing Countries

Authors of the report say sanitation workers in developing countries largely operate in the informal sector

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Developing Countries
Sanitation workers are the people who work in jobs such as cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewage and manholes and operating pumping stations and treatment plants, but their Condition is not good in Developing Countries. Wikimedia Commons

A new report by leading health and safety agencies finds millions of sanitation workers in Developing Countries are forced to work under horrific conditions that put their health and lives at risk.

Sanitation workers everywhere occupy the lowest rung of society and are stigmatized and marginalized because they do the dirty work that other people do not want to do.

The report’s authors – the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and Water Aid – say they hope to raise awareness on the plight of sanitation workers and the dehumanizing conditions under which they are forced to work. For example, the report says that many sanitation workers aren’t given the safety training or equipment needed to protect them when handling effluent or fecal sludge.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier says sanitation workers make an important contribution to public health at the risk of their own lives. Poor sanitation, he says, causes more than 430,000 deaths from diarrhea every year and is linked to the spread of other diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio.

“Sanitation workers are the people who work in jobs such as cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewage and manholes and operating pumping stations and treatment plants.… Waste must be correctly treated before being disposed of or used. However, workers often come into direct contact with human waste, working with no equipment or no protection to remove it by hand which exposes them to a long list of health hazards and diseases,” Lindmeier said.

Developing Countries
A new report by leading health and safety agencies finds millions of Sanitation Workers in Developing Countries are forced to work under horrific conditions that put their health and lives at risk. VOA

Authors of the report say sanitation workers in developing countries largely operate in the informal sector. They labor under abusive conditions, have no rights or social protections and are poorly paid.

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The study calls on countries to rectify these wrongs. It urges governments to enact laws and regulations that improve working conditions for sanitation workers and protect their safety and health. It says sanitation workers must be given the equipment and training necessary for the safe, proper disposal of waste. (VOA)