Students’ tendency to self-diagnose can cause both harm, good

Young people often check sites Wed MD, Your Diagnosis and Family Doctor before seeing a trained physician when they experience symptoms of an illness or injury.

Web MD. Your Diagnosis. Family Doctor. These are all websites that allow people to diagnose themselves without the help of a trained physician. These websites offer various symptom checkers where a person can enter the symptoms that they are experiencing.

For example, if a person put in symptoms like fever, nasal congestion and sore throat, the checker comes up with possible illnesses varying from the common cold to Scarlet fever. This wide variance in illnesses is what leads people to discredit the “helpfulness” of online self-diagnosis.

Cody Cabaniss, a sophomore at UNA, believes that these types of websites do more harm than good for the average person.

“Lots of sicknesses have the same signs and symptoms. It would be easy for a person to make a mistake in the diagnosis,” she said. “This isn’t a problem until they misdiagnose something serious. A person might go around thinking they are having anxiety problems, but it could really turn out to be something wrong with their heart or lungs. They risk their lives by not going to the doctor or infirmary.”

He went on to say that even if people are short on time, they should still try and get to some kind of doctor, even if it’s an Express Med.

Joni Gillespie, a senior at UNA, agrees that even though the websites are mostly harmful, they do have a positive side.

“Even though these websites aren’t very helpful when it comes to serious illnesses, they are useful when it comes to common illnesses,” Gillespie said. “It saves time when you already have an idea of what your illness might be and you don’t have the time to see a doctor.”

Using these websites as a shortcut to not go to a licensed physician is not the best way to resolve an issue about one’s health. Morgan Thornton, a nursing major at UNA, believes that some people use these websites to feed their own fears.

“Personally, I feel as though going to these websites can become a problem because it just causes more anxiety towards an imaginary problem,” said Thornton. “If a person uses them, it should be to get a general idea of what they might have and what questions they should ask their primary physician.”

The Bennett Infirmary is located on campus and should cut out this problem for many students. Beth Dawson, a nurse practitioner at Bennett said that self-diagnosis isn’t the best way to understand what’s going on in the body.

“The kind of information that is available on these websites isn’t very patient specific,” said Dawson. “It should be used to better understand your condition once you have already been diagnosed by a physician. The information just isn’t enough to treat yourself.”