Is it OK to ask my doctor friends for medical advice?
Sorry, but you can't skip the doctor's office because you can Facebook chat with your girlfriend who just happens to be an MD. The problem with asking a friend to casually weigh in is that she isn't formally seeing you in her office, so she's likely not getting a complete picture of your health issue. To correctly diagnose or treat you, a physician needs to take a full medical history and examine you in person.
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On top of that, friendship can impair a doctor's judgment and her ability to be honest with you. This is the same reason that doctors have their own physicians; everyone needs an unbiased confidant when it comes to their health. Plus, depending on how close you two are, you may not want to discuss all the intimate details of your problem—when talking to your doctor, however, your privacy is protected by law.
So, without question, it's best to seek medical advice in a professional setting from someone whose job it is to address your concerns completely. While it may be safe to ask a pal if you have a quick, minor question (for example, about a lingering cough), chances are she'll tell you to see your doctor anyway.
Health's medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.
Meet Dr. Raj at the Health Total Wellness Weekend at Canyon Ranch in May 2015. For details, go to Health.com/TotalWellness.