Expert Tip: You should pay attention to the disease-googling

Almost everyone uses the web for research on health issues
What could these stinging abdominal pain indicate? Which home remedy for fever is the best? And what does it mean when the doctor diagnoses a "sinusitis"?Questions like these often lead to the advice and information being sought on the Internet. According to a representative survey conducted by MSL Germany, almost three-quarters of the German population claim to use the Internet regularly( 42 per cent) or occasionally( 32 per cent) for research on health topics. The network offers an almost endless flood of information and it is often not easy to keep a clear view.

The Internet can be a good help in questions about health topics - if you consider some important points.(Picture: psdesign1 / fotolia.com) The Internet can be a good help when it comes to health issues - if you consider some important points.(Image: psdesign1 / fotolia.com)

Search engines take the sorting work
Frequently, a search engine like Google or Bing is used to get the supposedly best pages on the topic. But this ranking can quickly deceive, because "the top contestants are however no guarantee that the sides also deliver current and balanced contents on a topic," emphasizes Klaus Koch of the institute for quality and profitability in the health care against the "dpa".The placement says nothing about the actual quality of the contributions, but gives at most information about the number of queries or the general "success" of the page.

article should contain information on the author
Gunnar Schwan from Stiftung Warentest also knows what consumers should look for in the search for good, serious health care. The foundation had already examined medical sites a few years ago on the net and had concluded that false information is rare, but these sometimes have gaps. In order to be considered a good health page, the latter had to be "balanced and up-to-date and transparent", said Schwan. For example, quality can be recognized by the fact that several treatment options are always described and that the text contains information on the author at the end. The publishing date also plays a role because "a text should not be older than two years," adds the expert. If this is the case, it must be made clear that the content still corresponds to the current state of research.

Certificates are not a guarantee for the correct contents
Consumers should also not rely on only one source, according to the warentest. Only the top hit in the Google search to use is thus not meaningful. Instead, it is advisable to always read several pages on the topic, in order to get a better overview and to discover contradictions. Certificates such as the hon seal of the Swiss Health on the Net Foundation and the afgis seal of the Health Information System could help the experts to find a good health portal. For Koch at least points to a reliable source - whether this also provides good and correct content, is not guaranteed, too, Koch recalls.

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Information only as a supplement to a medical advice
If a user has researched a mountain of information, the question often arises"And what do I do with it now?" Because sorting the contents correctly is not easy. From the experts' point of view, these should only be considered as an addition to the expert advice of the physician or, after the treatment, for example.to provide additional information about a drug."They help to prepare for the appointment with the doctor, in order to be able to ask more specifically," says Gretje Stelzenmüller from the consumer center North-Rhine Westphalia against the "dpa".

Also to learn more about diseases of friends or relatives, the Internet as according to Stelzenmüller be very useful. But to be safe, other sources of knowledge should also be used here: "Information from the network can also be misleading or misunderstood. That's why you should not rely on the Internet, "the expert said. According to Gunnar Schwan, Internet forums on health topics are not necessarily the first place to receive expert and objective information. However, these can also be quite useful to the seeker, for example,to exchange experiences with specific therapeutic approaches.(nr)

Not every information on the Internet is trustworthy
Whether a fast-acting home remedy for colds, side effects of medication or help with toothache: Many people seek advice on the Internet, if they feel sick or want to know more about a health issue. The network can do very well here - but in the search for reputable information, there are some points to consider. Because not every page is trustworthy and the top hits in the Google search offer no guarantee. In talks with the news agency "dpa", experts provide tips on what is important in internet research.

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