Using Doctor Google Safely

MissC had a bit of a fall this week and her tooth had been pushed back in to the gum. By the time this was discovered (after some distraction about bleeding and a fat lip) it was too late at night to call anyone, I had to  rely on two very dodgy mechanisms to decide what to do- my instinct and Dr Google.
Dr Google assured me it was fine but even the day after I was a little troubled by the fact that I'd decided to ignore an injury based on something some random wrote on the internet. So how do you use Dr Google safely without losing your mind.

Don't be hysterical
Just tell Google what happened. Calmly.  The outcome of your search depends on what you put into it so use impartial words like 'toddler' 'cough' 'rash' 'fever', rather than worse case scenario words.

Be Descriptive
Choose the main concerning symptoms and try to describe it as accurately as possible. Also look for descriptions on the website that indicate they are matching the symptoms your child has.

Look for evidence
Think your child has croup but not exactly sure what a barking cough sounds like? Or you think your child's rash might be 'target shaped'.  Google it and look for videos or images. Most of these things are pretty distinct so this is the fastest way to clear up any confusion.
Warning: If you're going to google image a rash, probably best to have a strong stomach or not to eat first.

Use reputable sites
That means no blog sites (apart from this one obviously) particularly if they do not link to reputable sites. The best resources are those that are government affiliated. Websites of medical, dental and optometry practices will also usually provide reliable advice. Be sure to check however for evidence that they are an actual healthcare provide. Once you've found the answer you wanted, take two seconds more to navigate to their about us section and look for some credentials.

Sites I like:
HealthDirect: Provides a good range of information on a variety of symptoms including when you should see a doctor. It also provides links to other reputable sites if you can't find the information you're after on this site.
NPS medicinewise: Funded by the Australian Government they provide unbiased advice on medicines to use for the treatment of a variety of a different conditions. They also have good information about the use of medication in babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Better Health Channel: A Victorian Government site they have a good range of fact sheets on a variety of conditions, including coughs and childhood illnesses, including how to manage it so if you think your child has a particular condition this a good place to start.

Use Occam's razor
If the evidence indicates that all is well but there's a slim chance of it being something terrible try and remain calm. Every symptom ever has some chance of being something sinister, its the combination, the severity and the length of time that symptoms go on that differentiates a mild illness from a more serious one. So step away from the computer, take a deep breath, have a look at your child and ask yourself if you really feel they are unwell. If you do, you should take them to a doctor.

This step requires more time than most of us are willing to invest in Google but if you really want to be sure you're making the right decision its a necessary one. Go back and click on another couple of reputable sites to make sure the information is consistent. If its correct it will be. Incorrect information or things that are a not yet established medical opinion tend to vary between sites and should be questioned more deeply.

For me, I went back to Google the next day and looked at a few dental sites which confirmed the initial information. Two days on, she's absolutely fine, no dentist visit required.


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