Stories about: online symptom checkers

MyViewPoints: Sharing information, connecting communities

Adrienne found online communities helpful when recovering from Lyme disease

About two years ago I became very sick. After dealing with illness for a number of months I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. Suddenly I had an explanation for all the symptoms I was feeling: aches and pains, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, memory loss, upset stomachs, anxiety, depression.

I was lucky to find a great local doctor and have a supportive network of friends and family to lean on. I took my prescribed antibiotics and felt better. I took time off from work and gave my body time to heal. Both played into my eventual recovery, as did the support network I found online. By connecting with an online Lyme disease community I learned what hurdles other people like me were facing, and how they beat (or at least coped with) those hurdles. I asked questions like what homeopathic remedies worked best for them? How did they alleviate anxiety? How were they able to ease the upset stomachaches caused by their antibiotics?

I was helping myself get better, and after a while started sharing my own remedies and coping mechanisms. The back and forth developed into strong, supportive relationships that were very important to me. They didn’t take the place of a trip to the doctor’s office or real life bonds I had, but it was so helpful to have access to people who understood my ups and downs, didn’t mind my occasional venting and were so eager to share information.

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This week on Thrive July 19-23

Thanks to advancements in medicine and vaccination, many diseases have been all but eradicated. But as powerful as modern medicine has become, there are still holes in its defenses, as proven by a recent Californian outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, that is well on its way to being the most widespread outbreak the state has seen in 50 years. Learn how the process of cocooning can protect newborns before they’re old enough to be vaccinated against these diseases.

Claire McCarthy, MD, weighs in on the dangers (and advantages) of online symptom checkers and how some parents rely on the internet to help figure out what’s wrong with their sick kids.

How young is too young for cosmetic surgery? Brian Labow, MD, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Children’s Hospital Boston talked FOX25 Morning News to discuss the topic of teen cosmetic surgery.

Children’s gives transgender tween new hope. Read about this young person with gender identity disorder (GID) or transgenderism, and the progressive treatment she received at Children’s.

When lecturing their kids about the dangers of drugs, many parents are put in tough position when their kids question their own past experiences with drugs and alcohol. Read advice from our expert who says honesty is the best policy when talking to your kids about you own past history with controlled substances.

The Health Family Fun website offers advice on how to limit your family’s time in front of the TV and curb some of their junk food intake.

Children’s Dennis Rosen, MD, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times about the shrinking field of pediatric specialists and how this could be severely limit the quality health care available to many of our nation’s children.

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The pros and perils of online symptom checkers

Your child has a fever and a stomachache. You’re not sure what to do. So you reach for—your laptop?

kidsdocsymptomchecker
The AAP just launched the KidsDoc Symptom Checker, which helps look up specific symptoms by body part.

More and more, that’s what many parents are doing. Over the past few years, the amount of health information available on the internet has skyrocketed, and many sites offer to help you make diagnoses, whether it’s through specific health information, quizzes, or a “symptom checker” that allows you to look specifically at what might be causing the fever or stomachache—or rash, or whatever.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently launched their own “symptom checker,” called the KidsDoc Symptom Checker, available at healthychildren.org (there’s an iPhone app too!). It’s very straightforward: you run the cursor over the part of the body where there’s a problem, and you get a menu of possible symptoms in that area. For example, I ran the cursor over the abdomen (pretending I have a child with fever and stomachache), and it gave me Abdominal Pain and Constipation as possibilities. So I clicked on Abdominal Pain, and it gave me information on possible causes of abdominal pain, advice on when to call the doctor and some home care instructions.

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