Updated: Jan 26
When you have a sneeze, cough or pain what's the first thing you do? If you're like many you go to Google and find sites ranging from personal blogs and hospital websites to pop culture magazines. They all say something slightly different about your symptoms. Worst of all, they may give scary explanations such as uncommon diseases and even cancer. What do you do then? You freak out. Well, you try not to, but it's hard given what you've read. Sound familiar?
First, don't freak out. I'm here to help. As a family doctor in practice for over 10 years I've had countless patients come to me with information from Dr. Google in hand. Contrary to how some might feel, I'm not totally against my patients googling symptoms. I actually like it when my patients take an active role in their health, but I have a couple of major cautions about doing this: 1) the health information you read may not apply to your particular situation and may not be relevant (thus freaking out is unnecessary) and 2) not all health information online is reliable.
Here are 7 of my favorite health websites that provide reliable, evidence-based information.
1. MedlinePlus.gov- This is a great website that aggregates multiple evidence-based resources for lots of health conditions. I use this site all the time to prepare for my tv segments.
2. CDC.gov - This is a great website for a wide range of health conditions but it's particularly excellent for STD information, stats/epidemiology and health epidemics that pop up in the news.
3. Heart.org- Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in this country. For all of your heart health questions this is a great place to start.
4. HealthyChildren.org- This site provides accurate, easy-to-understand information about health conditions that affect kids. It also gives health tips and suggestions to parents.
5. FamilyDoctor.org- Of course I love this site, I'm a family doc what can I say?! But seriously, this site is excellent for covering basic health conditions that you see your family doc for.
6. Diabetes.org- Diabetes affects millions of people. This site is great for providing prevention and treatment options but also nutrition tips and diabetes-friendly recipes.
7. Sharecare.com- Sharecare does a wonderful job of providing health information on a wide variety of topics. (Full disclosure, I sit on the board of Sharecare and I contribute health information to the site, but I do so because I believe in the work that Sharecare does).
Before you start reading random websites about your health conditions, check out the above first- they're excellent. To be sure, this is by no means an exhaustive list and there are other amazing health information websites. But these are some that I like and recommend to my patients.
Finally, after doing research, head to your doctor's office to chat about what you've learned. Remember, just because you read it online doesn't mean it applies to your health situation. So, let us help you with that.
Dr. Jen Caudle is a Family Doctor & Associate Professor at Rowan University, an On-air health expert, and a video creator. Please sign up for her free newsletter and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube for daily health videos.