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4 things to know before googling health issues

Mashable: “After more than a year and a half of hobbling through a pandemic, we’ve learned to depend on public health information like never before. And we’ve become accustomed to getting it whenever — by scrolling on Instagram, reading a news article, Googling, or maybe all three. “Across all age groups, everyone is relying on the Internet more and more as a resource for their health information,” says Dr. Austin L. Chiang, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Health (Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals) in Philadelphia who has almost half a million followers on TikTok. There is so much of that info out there, and we have the power to choose where and when we get it. That’s a good thing…but it’s not without its problems. One issue, Chiang says, is that not all content is created equal. For example, since the first cases of COVID-19 were documented in 2019, leaders from China, Iran, Russia, and the U.S. have all played their part in mis- and dis-informing media and the public for political ends. In the U.S. alone, there has been much back-and-forth on whether to take the pandemic “seriously” (which everyone should); whether the virus becomes less contagious in warmer weather (which isn’t supported by the data); whether masks even “work” (they do); and so on. “With so many voices screaming,” wrote Dr. Matt Morgan, who works at the University Hospital of Wales, in an open letter to patients in November 2020, “it’s hard to hear the whispers that really matter.” What if we could hear the whispers over the screams? What if everyone had the tools to spot junk science? Stronger media literacy and science understanding could have prevented very preventable suffering and death. As we come up on its two-year anniversary, the pandemic could still do some good — if we take the time and energy to learn from it. To start, three medical experts share what they would advise their own patients to do while searching for health information online…”

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