When it comes to your health, the old saying is
true: "Don't believe everything you read." This is especially true
on the Internet. The Web can be a great resource to increase your
health IQ, but it's important to remember to be skeptical. Using
the Internet is like going on a treasure hunt: You can find some
gems, but you can also end up in some very strange places.
Consider these ideas to improve your chances of finding
1. Is the site
selling something? If so, the viewpoint is
more likely to be biased than on sites simply trying to provide
Try to figure out who runs the site. Look for a section
marked "about us." It may be in the fine print at the bottom of the
page, but it should still be visible. In that section look for an
editorial board, a selection policy for how they decide to include
or exclude information and a review process that shows the site
tries to verify the accuracy of the information. Many sites simply
trying to sell you something will not have an "about us"
If there are ads on the site, it should be easy to
separate the ads from the health information. Even the most
reputable sites may have ads, but they should be clearly labeled as
2. Good sites rely
on medical research, not on opinion. You
should be able to find out where information came from so that you
can go back to the source and check the facts. If "a recent
research study" is mentioned, there should be details about who
conducted the research and where it was done.
A site should clearly state whether it is providing
opinions or facts. Personal experiences can be valuable to others
considering a particular treatment, but opinions or testimonials
should be clearly labeled.
To validate information, compare it to others. When
several sources report similar information on a topic, it is more
likely to be accurate.
3. Is the site
reviewed and updated regularly? The last date
when the site was updated is often clearly listed. If the last
update was in 2009, then you should move to a site with more recent
4. Some sites ask
you to become a member. Look at the site's
before becoming a member.
information is not a substitute for medical
advice. Your doctor knows your child's
specific health issues and is the best person to answer questions.
If you find information you think is relevant to your child's
health, be sure to share it with your pediatrician. Being an active
partner with your physician will lead to the best medical care for
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
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