The Safe Way to Get Medical Advice From Your Facebook Friends
A top health expert says it's fine to do—if you use the feedback the right way. Here's how to do it wisely.
Social media is a great resource for staying in touch with friends, sharing the latest viral videos, and even keeping tabs on that old college crush (admit it—you do it too!). Even more popular is crowdsourcing everything from where to spend your summer vacation to the best yoga deal in your neighborhood.
Model Chrissy Teigen recently went a step further and tried the tactic for medical advice. After she thought a bee sting looked a little more inflamed than usual, she posted a picture of it with the caption, “Help is this a normal bee sting I feel pass outy #instagramMD”
In response, she received thousands of comments speculating that she had everything from a bee allergy to Lyme disease. Not everyone has the reach Teigen has, but is it okay to ask your network for medical advice? David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center explained to Health that, surprise, it's actually a fine idea—as long as you proceed with appropriate caution.
“My suggestion is to poll the hive for ideas, then run those ideas by an actual expert,” Dr. Katz told Health. “This actually follows the pattern of the best medical screening tests: a highly sensitive test first, to be sure not to miss anything important, and a highly specific test after, to be sure not to mistake bath water for baby."
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Indeed, he says, crowdsourcing is a great way to get an idea of specific questions to ask your doctor when you go in to see him or her (and you should). For instance, Teigen—had she visited her MD—could've brought up a possible allergy or the prospect of Lyme, just to rule them out.
Another tip: Don't follow the advice you get without carefully considering the source first.
“Ask for more than unsubstantiated opinions and ask where the opinions come from,” Dr. Katz said. “Value opinions that can be traced back to convincing substantiation over those that cannot"—read: trust medical professionals and legitimate scientific research over information that someone "read somewhere" or cures someone "heard about from a friend." Warns Dr. Katz: "If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”
As for Teigen, that "passouty" feeling seems to have passed, according to her Instagram. The former Sports Illustrated cover girl was recently in London visiting hubby and singer John Legend.
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