KATHMANDU, June 27: This isn’t a new story, especially among the urban youth of today. A slight headache or a mild cough or even a muscle twitch, we take no second thought to search it up on Google. And immediately upon hitting the magic button, we’re bestowed with options from prevention to causes and cures.
Although at first, there may seem nothing wrong with the idea, a second look gives way to a lot of queries.
First off, Dr. Google, unlike human doctors, doesn´t factor in basic and most important things like age, health background and family history to the diagnosis and yet more and more youngsters today opt for online searches.
Subhechha Bista, 21, is a Kathmandu University student . She says she uses the Internet on a daily basis for almost everything from assignments to word pronunciations. She also Googles for health issues.
“Most of the time, my search is regarding skin allergies,” she shares, adding, “I usually look up herbal remedies and try and stay away from chemical usage.”
This computer engineering student may sound safe from cyberchondria, which, according to an encyclopedia, is “a condition that people have when they continuously look up medical advice on the Web for every pain and ache,” and other negative effects.
Subhechha shares instances of when one of her friends dictated a small discharge of blood in her urine and immediately looked it up on the internet.
Now, if one searches “blood in urine,” the results shown are kidney stones, urinary tract infection, kidney and prostate, among others. “My friend has convinced herself that she has some kind of a deadly disease,” she says, adding “even after visiting three different doctors already and they informing her that it’s nothing to worry about if the blood is seen only once, she’s still Googling about it everyday.”
Dr Niroj Banepali, a medical professional based in Kathmandu, advises youngsters not to make any decisions solely on the basis of search engines.
“Every individual is different, and so are their problems. But search engines usually have generalized information,” says the doctor who believes there can be nothing better and safer than an appointment with a medical professional.
Meet Sony KC who has been consulting the internet for health issues since 2004. “My googling began after I was diagnosed with acute gastritis eight years ago,” she shares. And although she understands the side effects her habit can have, she can’t put an end to it.
“I would rather google my health query than go visit a doctor,” she says. Sony has had bad experiences with doctors in Nepal who “it seems have no time for any of their patients.”
She shares how she’s been treated in a hurry more often than not. “Even if you try to talk to them, they’ll only give you one-word answers,” complains Sony.
Dr Banepali accepts her complaint. “Yes, we’re at fault here because of the long queue that waits everyday,” he says, adding “but another factor to keep in mind is that we don’t say much at once because of the fear that the patient may panic.”
Dipson Khadka, 23, surfs the internet for issues like sexual diseases, depression and body fitness. He says it’s common for people his age to look up information on the web because it’s fast, free, displays images and you can choose to stay anonymous.
“I think it’s a good idea to do a general search and if symptoms persist you can always visit a doctor,” he says.
Dr Banepali agrees with Dipson here. “A quick search on the internet will prepare you for better consultation and you’ll be able to ask more questions and receive more answers,” he says.
The doctor however warns that many a time the search for basic medical information can lead to researching a more serious conditions inviting cyberchondria.
“The one thing you should never do is to ignore the source of the information, focusing instead on the information itself,” warns the doctor.