GUEST OPINION: Trust your Doctor, not WebMD


Susan Egbert, [email protected]

Ever had a cough that never seemed to go away? Have you ever noticed something about your body that was totally weird, but were too afraid to ask someone about it?  

As college students, these days we have information available by just a click or a tap. However, just because you’re looking up your symptoms on the internet doesn’t mean that you have whatever the internet says you have. Although WebMD is a great source to look up anything medical, that doesn’t mean you should take it literally. I know there have been instances where a person looked up their symptoms and figured out they had some terrible disease. This isn’t always the case.  

An article published in 2011, wrote how the only “unbiased medical source” at this time is the Mayo Clinic symptom checker. This is due to the fact that it gives you no hysteria and tells you the facts without any hassle. The article also goes on to talk about how WebMD has associations with pharmaceutical companies, which creates bias since these companies will influence what WebMD says. Another difference mentioned between WebMD and the Mayo Clinic was how the two looked at a headache. WebMD mentions medication within the first few pages and has articles on “when is your headache an emergency,” whereas Mayo Clinic did not mention medications until later in the story.

An additional article released by the University of Florida: “Future of Public Health” in 2017, expressed the same concerns of biasness with WebMD using various ads from “sponsors.”
If you have concerns about certain symptoms that you are experiencing, please contact someone that has medical training. Although there are some providers that aren’t the best, the majority of us did not spend so many years in school not to use it. If you’re wondering who to refer to for questions, here’s a few different options of medical providers within the area that would not mind helping you out.

Pharmacists. They are good if you have any questions about medications. If you have questions about which medications to use for certain headaches or allergy symptoms, a pharmacist is the one to go to. Doctors, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are other good options. They’re generally the ones who, based on your symptoms, determine what you have. With the lack of doctors available, physician assistants and nurse practitioners have become more accessible. I do have to give a fair warning though, they don’t go through as much schooling as a doctor. So, every once in a while, they have a slip up, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful.

Again, do not use biased sources like WebMD that might end up hurting your health. There are free sources to use, like the ULM health clinic and certain healthcare providers that can be utilized if you need a cheaper option than going to the doctor.