Tech Talk – Teens Health Online with The Guru & The Dr

tech-talk

Tech Talk with The Cyber Safety Guru and Stop Dr. Google!
The Guru is all about being safe online and the Dr is all about using appropriate online channels for health information – but always remember Google does not replace your doctor! So, today we have come together to talk to you about Teens Health Online!

Being a teenager can be difficult, lots of friendship changes, increased studies and social life, with most teens spending more time online than with the family! So when it comes to teenagers searching for health symptoms it’s important to make sure that they are using appropriate websites!

We all know about puberty blues and with easy reach to laptops, smart phones and iPads, teens are turning to technology to ask about their issues, get information and reach out to others. A Northwestern University study showed that most teenagers were seeking information on: everyday topics such as exercise and nutrition, according to the study. They’re also searching for more information on stress, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), depression and sleep.

Common Questions teens may ask include:
How often do I get my periods?
Why do I get wet dreams?
What are the chances on contracting STDs?
How can I get skinnier?
How often should I exercise?

These and more questions, often can be embarrassing to speak to your parents about and hence why teens turn to the Internet. What’s important to remember is that you need clear and open communication about your teen’s health and life cycles. Growing up is difficult and often body functions change and develop, and it’s important to note that these changes are often normal, but if something doesn’t feel right remember you need to tell a trusted adult, parent and seek medical advice from your GP.

If you do want to research online, you must remember you cannot believe everything you read on the Internet. Some websites we would recommend include:

Kidshealth.org is a safe place for teens and tweens who need honest, accurate information and advice our health, emotions and life. All articles are created by a team of paediatricians and other medical experts. They also have a page dedicated to advice for parents – http://kidshealth.org/parent/.

Healthy-kids.com.au is a great online destination for healthy food choices and recommendations for teens.

Healthdirect.gov.au/kids-health is a great avenue for looking up various health issues suffered by kids and teens. They provide in-depth explanations of symptoms, treatments and recommendations.

If you are feeling down, are stressed or going through a tough time with school, friends, well-being or family – we recommend contacting kidshelpline.com.au.

If you are unsure of the changes happening to your body, read this article (link: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/puberty.html)

Or watch this:

What to expect if you’re a girl

What to expect if you’re a boy:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

1 out of every 8 women is diagnosed with breast cancer. Unfortunately, more and more women are convincing themselves they have breast cancer after Googling different symptoms.

Irene’s Story

Irene (24 years old) recently experienced a pain in her right breast. The pain worsened within a couple hours and she decided to google ‘Breast Pain’.

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With the top 5 search options including the ‘C’ word – Irene immediately panicked! Irene and her mum worried for 2 days before she decided to visit the doctor. Thankfully, the doctor confirmed her Google Diagnosis was incorrect and she was in fact experiencing a side effect from the contraceptive pill.

It is vital for women to know the difference between breast cancer facts and fiction. Don’t believe everything you read on Google. Especially when searching a keyword featuring ‘breast’ – the ‘C’ word appears in every link. To avoid further anxiety and stress, here’s a list of 8 Busted Breast Cancer Myths:

  1. Wearing an underwire bra WILL NOT increase your chances of Breast Cancer
  2. Not all breast lumps are cancerous: 80% of lumps are benign, cysts or other conditions
  3. Women with breast implants are not at higher risk of breast cancer
  4. Wearing antiperspirant does not increase your chances of breast cancer
  5. There is no correlation between the size of your breasts and breast cancer
  6. Breast cancer doesn’t always come in the form of a lump
  7. Being overweight does increase your chance of breast cancer
  8. Abortions do not raise your chance of breast cancer

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google

Google Should Never Replace A Real Doctor!

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Linda Girgis. Linda is a family physician who treats patients in South River, New Jersey and its surrounding communities.

1655856_1547545698840474_1303930263172636281_nDr. Girgis is a firm believer of educating her patients on how to use Doctor Google safely.

“Many patients Google their health symptoms, and I tend to find them looking at the worst-case scenarios and they worry needlessly” says Dr. Girgis.

She believes googling health symptoms can be a positive thing. She generally loves when patients have researched their health and bring her articles they find online. However, she is finding more and more patients are being deceived by misinformation or exaggerations found on Google.

Dr Girgis finds patients who Google live on two polarizing ends. They either Google their symptoms and fall into a false security that nothing is wrong – which lends them into delayed diagnoses and treatments when there is an issue. Or, they research on Google and “convince themselves that they have cancer, and no amount of testing could convince them otherwise”. Most often, unnecessary tests are conducted due to trying to convince the patient that they are healthy and fine.

In general, Dr. Girgis thinks Doctor Google can be a good idea – “BUT, patients need to be educated” she says. Patients sometimes believe the treatments and remedies they read online, this can be very dangerous or ineffective.

It is important to know which sites are the best to use; otherwise you are reading a bunch of useless and incorrect information. She recommends Maya Clinic, Cleveland Clinic or the CDC.

“Dr. Google should never replace a real doctor” according to Dr. Girgis.

Follow Dr. Girgis on Twitter for more healthcare advise and recommendations @LindaGirgis,MD

‘Don’t let the web, get to your head’

Stop Dr Google.

More Real-Life Cyberchondria Stories

This week, we spoke to more of our readers about their DR Google experiences. Here are some of their stories:

Female, 22

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I was curious to what Google would say.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. I’ve recently googled right arm hurting, wisdom teeth symptoms, ear infection and fainting.

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Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. The right arm hurting was apparently a heart attack – this didn’t worry me very much since it’s quite extreme. But my painful wisdom teeth was showing to be a really bad ear infection.

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, Google was correct about the ear infection however the suggested treatment was incorrect.

Female, 24

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I Google every kind of symptom that ever pops up. From simple things like causes of headaches because I don’t want to waste a doctors time…to more private things that you don’t particularly want to see a doctor about.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Ankle sprain

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. Torn ligaments in my ankle

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, I went to my physio the next day – she said I had torn ligaments but not to the extreme as described by Google. She also picked up on other issues with my ankle that Google did not mention.

Male, 23

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. Yes, to read about different forms of mental health issues.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Basically feelings, thoughts, dreams, symptoms of mental health issues i.e. lack of sleep etc.

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Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. I most likely have a mild case of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia or minor early stages of depression

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. No, I have not gone to go and see a doctor.

If you’d like to share your cyberchondria stories with us, please email stopdrgoogling@gmail.com.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

Tips for Finding Health Information Online

Stop DR Google aims to convince YOU that Googling a health symptom is dangerous and to stop! BUT, we know it is impossible to make ALL OF YOU walk away from the keyboard. The least we can do is give you tips on how to find trustworthy health information online and make safe choices.

cyberchondriacs

Tip 1. Research the website not just your symptom!
Look into the site you are reading, don’t just select the first website that Google suggests. Ensure the information was written by a reputable health organisation – read the ‘about us’ section to validate it is a trustworthy site. Charities and associations that are dedicated to a specific health condition are a good source of information, for example, Endometriosisaustralia.org or diabetesaustralia.com.au.

Tip 2. Be specific with your choice of Google words
Googling specific health symptoms will be more likely to generate accurate results. Vague searches will often be a symptom for a terrible illness; for instance, a bad headache is a symptom of brain cancer. But the chance of having brain cancer is extremely low compared to other headache related conditions. Don’t wander around sites just because you are curious, only read articles specific to your symptoms only.

Tip 3. Consistency
Don’t just read one site, read a few that back up your findings. This will improve the accuracy, relevance and validation to your self-diagnosis. Look for facts and figures; steer clear of opinion pieces, exaggerations and hyperboles.isportacus-panic-buttonTip 4. Don’t Panic
Even if you follow the above steps and a terrible diagnosis shows up, do not panic! You must remember a rare disease is RARE and will always require a professional diagnosis for confirmation.

Screaming businessman looking at his laptop in office

Tip 5. Accept that your self-diagnosis can be wrong
Visit a doctor! Accept that he/she may tell you it isn’t a rare disease and Google was in fact, incorrect.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

How is Google affecting our Heart?

Today is World Heart Day! Today is about educating society on how to be healthy in order to live longer; whether it is keeping fit, eating the right foods or timely sleep patterns.

However, with the rise of DR Google users – today is also a reminder to stress less. We are constantly connected to our mobiles, laptops or tablets. We are constantly on the move, whilst simultaneously connected to our work, our schooling or our family via mobile technologies. Every day stresses are on the rise with the consistent need to have a healthy work-life-friend-family balance. We urge ourselves to fit as much as we can into every day of our lives, without taking note on how it is affecting our health.

All these social pressures are contributing to the recent increase in DR Google users! People find excuses to not visit a real doctor (whether it is due to work, sport, family, education or friend commitments). Instead they visit DR Google.

Starcevic & Berle suggest people these days seek medical information online as it’s faster than making a doctors appointment and waiting in a doctor’s surgery. The accessibility of mobile technologies makes ‘googling’ symptoms easy, as individuals want real-time information (ABC). But what is this doing to your heart.

DR Google can often provide the worst-case scenarios to patients; giving these patients heightened levels of stress and anxiety. This is not good for your health, and certainly not good for your heart.

Celebrate World Heart Day today by telling a friend to not Google his/her health symptoms. You may save their heart.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

Sources:

ABC News 2011, ABC News, accessed 25 August 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3198312.html>

Starcevic, V., & Berle, D. (2013). Cyberchondria: towards a better understanding of excessive health-related Internet use.

10 Signs You’re a Cyberchondriac

Isn’t it great having Dr Google everywhere you go at your fingertips? BUT it’s all fun and games until WedMD says you have a rare disease and you have 12 months to live!

Here are 10 Signs that mean You’re a Cyberchondriac:

1. Every time you feel a slight tingle, ache or pain – you Google what it means to relieve anxiety

2. You read at least 3 different sites on the first search page of Google – one source is never enough!

google_meme_2nd_page

3. Instead of becoming less stressed, you become anxious and worried because you’re focusing on the worse case scenario

4. You then check online forums for reassurance and further clarification – at this point, you’ve definitely diagnosed yourself and are thinking the worse

resized_hipster-ariel-meme-generator-feel-sick-google-the-symptoms-on-google-oh-god-i-m-dying-a9b564

5. Rather than just ‘Googling’ the symptom, you start ‘Googling’ the disease you believe you have. And ALL of the symptoms and causes seem to relate to you

6. You’re convinced you have an extremely rare disease! You’re tingle, ache or pain all of a sudden is so much worse

Internet pharmacy
Internet pharmacy

7. You send the website links to your partner or best friend to inform them you have an incurable rare disease

8. The more you read, the more worried you are

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9. You distract yourself from the real reason you opened up the Internet browser

10. You believe Google, more than your professional GP. When you visit your doctor, you try to educate him on what you read on Google.

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Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

The Tale of a Cyberchondriac

This is the story of Lorraine Edmiston. A 21-year-old cyberchondriac who believed she was experiencing the symptoms and causes of various serious diseases for months.

Lorraine was experiencing stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, reflux and excessive burping for weeks. With a full-time job and university, she struggled to find time to visit her doctor. Instead, she turned to DR Google for help and advice.

She decided to Google ‘abdominal bloating’ and found 48 possible diseases related to her symptoms on healthline.com. She spent hours reading up on each disease, looked at various websites and sources to narrow down the possible options.

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At the top of the list was indigestion and lactose intolerance – conditions suffered by Lorraine’s mum. Lorraine wasn’t too worried at first, until H. Pylori infection was another suggestion. H. Pylori causes stomach ulcers, another health issue experienced by her mum. At the stage, Lorraine became anxious and began questioning her mum of her experiences and symptoms to see if there were similarities. Many of the symptoms matched up causing stress amongst both Lorraine and her worried mum.

Another suggested cause was gluten intolerance – a condition suffered by Lorraine’s sister. From here, Lorraine chose to go on a gluten free diet to see if this would help. She altered her lifestyle and diet for 2 months. During this time, she didn’t notice her symptoms improving and continued to use DR Google, rather than visit her GP.

During this time, Lorraine discovered one of her friends recently experienced similar health symptoms. Her friend had a hiatal hernia; a condition in which part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm muscle causing pain in the abdomen and chest, belching, heartburn, reflux and nausea. Lorraine read up about hiatal hernias on Google and came to the conclusion that she had it!

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At this point, she finally decided to visit her doctor. Her doctor was convinced she was showing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), however Lorraine was not convinced due to her Google searches. She had convinced herself that it was a more serious issue and demanded tests to be performed. Lorraine underwent X-rays, ultrasounds, a colonoscopy and endoscopy – only to be told her doctor’s initial diagnosis was correct and was suffering from IBS.

Lorraine’s story proves the importance of visiting a doctor when health symptoms arise. She could have prevented stress, panic and changing her diet for 2 months if she didn’t Google her symptoms. Instead of trusting her doctor’s diagnosis, she chose to trust Google – she could have easily avoided hefty medical bills, undergoing anesthetics and spending unnecessary time in waiting rooms.

‘Don’t let the web, get to your head’

Stop Dr Google.