It’s that time of year again, the kids have gone back to school, the temperature is cooling down and all sorts of nasties start to rear their ugly heads. My lot have already started with sore throats and Mr TS is sniffing and blowing his nose. I’ve stocked up on tissues, lemons and honey and I’m making sure they are all eating vitamin packed meals to ward off any bugs which might be floating around looking for an unsuspecting Thinly.
I’ve just been reading this article about self diagnosis which introduced me to a new word for the anxiety caused by googling your symptoms when you are feeling unwell, and which seems to sum it up quite well, ‘cyberchondria’. The article also raises some interesting questions as to how we now respond when we or our loved ones are feeling under the weather or out of sorts, and how reliable the information we find online actually is.
When I had my first baby 19 years ago I used to check his temperature with a plastic forehead strip, as my family grew I bought an ear thermometer, now I can check that they really are ill (rather than faking it by sitting too close to the radiator) by using an app on my phone. There are apps to monitor their heart rates, their sleep patterns and their calorie intake – if I wanted to I could keep a very close eye indeed on their health.
When I first became a mother and panicked at the sight of a spot or worried about my (very) grizzly baby I rang my Mum or asked a friend and, if I was really worried, I called the doctor. Now I see Mums on Facebook and Twitter doing the same thing but I’m not sure that social media is always the best place to ask – none of the people who weigh in with advice has seen the child and they very often suggest that the worried Mum googles the symptoms or checks them out on an app.
Of course it’s not just parents worrying about their children who are turning to the internet for a diagnosis. There are now over 100 000 health apps as well as search engines and self-help websites to help you hunt down a reason for your headache/sore toe/worrying lump none of which have actually seen you! I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should be running to the doctor with every sniff, ache or pain, and I do realise that some of the health apps are a godsend for people with conditions which require regular monitoring, but I do wonder how much damage is being done to people who are relying on the internet for their diagnosis.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – are you a Googler? Does researching your symptoms online leave you anxious and convinced there’s something terribly wrong with you? Have you put off going to see the doctor because of a diagnosis based on what you’ve read online or has researching online helped you and put your mind at rest?
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