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Digital Diagnosis?

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Do you check the Internet before taking your child to the emergency room? A new study says that one in eight parents go online for medical information before they take their child to the ER.

Parents also said that they would like to have websites recommended by their pediatrician to visit.

Dr. Purvi Shroff from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and her research team interviewed 240 parents or guardians, with Internet access, who brought their child to the ER.

They discovered that 12 percent of the parents had looked up their child’s medical condition on the Internet during the past 24 hours. Half said they had used the Internet at least once in the previous 3 months to find out information on their child’s health.

The most common websites searched were WebMD and Wikipedia. Few of the parents used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, run by the government, or the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website.

When asked if they would be more likely to use a health based website that was recommended by their child’s doctor, the majority said yes.

“Being invested in your child’s health and wanting to learn more and make the best decision for your child is always a good thing. However, when it comes to using the Internet, appropriate use depends on accessing good websites and knowing whether or not the information you find is applicable to your child,” Dr. Shroff told Reuters Health.

According to Dr. Shroff, pediatricians and family doctors should be prepared to offer advice to parents on which websites they think are a good source of information.

It is important, she added, that parents be able to talk to pediatricians about what they read on the Internet, and for the pediatrician to place it in context for each child.

Dr. Shroff  and her team presented their findings at the 2011 national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston.

The Internet can be a valuable resource for gathering health information, but it’s important that parents not substitute Internet information for appointments with their pediatrician or family doctor. Each child is unique, and your health care provider knows your child’s history and healthy base line. Search engines may give you information, but they are not an education in themselves.

Parents or caregivers and their pediatrician are a team. Your child needs both of you. If you have questions about something you’ve read on the Internet, concerning your child’s health, ask your pediatrician to go over it with you.

Also, ask your pediatrician which websites he or she recommends.

A well-informed parent will be able to make better decisions regarding their child’s health.

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