Are you looking for a cure for what ails you? According to a recent survey, almost 80 percent of Internet users search for health or medical information.

There are millions of sites offering advice on everything from treating abrasions to getting rid of warts. Unfortunately, erroneous advice is rampant, and some of it is tailored specifically to sway consumers toward a particular product.

“The problem with the Internet is there is good information and bad information, and to the uneducated eye, it’s hard to tell the difference,” says Dr. Alan Keck, president of the Florida Psychological Association. The Web is a good venue for unlicensed practitioners and, “of course, nobody regulates the Internet.”

Keck recommends asking your health-care professional for advice on where to find information pertinent to your illness or condition. If you choose to pursue information on your own, though, “look for something that’s an official site of an organized group of professionals, as opposed to a “Dr. Schmooze I-Know-Everything’ Web site.”

Consumers should carefully scrutinize the sources and evidence behind medical advice on the Web, says Leigh McKinney, director of online publishing for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“And always, always talk to a physician about what you read online before you make some change, start a new diet or (take) an herbal remedy,” she says.

One page on the AAFP site, family doctor.org/783.xml, lists questions to ask about information found on the Web, including: Where did this information come from?, and, how current is it? The organization’s home page (familydoctor.org) guides users to advice on such topics as flu shots, smoking cessation and pregnancy, as well as primers on insurance and choosing a general practitioner.

Many well-known national hospitals, universities and medical schools also have Web sites on which useful information can be found. For instance, at Mayo Clinic’s Web site (mayoclinic.com), consumers can read about drugs, supplements, dental care and living healthily. Shands Health Care (shands.org/health), affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville, offers guidance on surgical procedures and the Health Illustrated Encyclopedia – an A to Z guide to injuries, disease, nutrition and symptoms.


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