(CARLSBAD, CA) – It’s late, you’re tired, and you can’t sleep. So, you write on your Facebook wall that you can’t seem to catch enough ZZZzzzs. Within seconds, a helpful friend responds with her Aunt Jenny’s surefire remedy for insomnia. Ten minutes later, your sister posts the URL to a blog jammed with tips and tricks for falling asleep in five minutes. Isn’t social networking great? You can find the answer to almost anything without ever leaving the comfort of your desk chair.
There’s just one problem. Inaccurate medical advice is rampant online. Dozens of online sites, masquerading as helpful sources for health and wellness, are spreading misinformation. According to a recent study, Internet users are passing along these medical falsehoods at record speeds.
Just this month, the American Journal of Infection Control has published a study that measures the effects of social networking on modern day health care. During the course of four months, researchers studied 52,000 tweets. The researchers found that hundreds of Twitter users casually posted medical advice – some of it inaccurate - which then spread to millions of people via the Twitter network. Although only two percent of the tweets contained medical mishaps considered dangerous, the handful of harmful tweets actually reached tens of thousands of followers. In fact, one individual tweet with medical misinformation about antibiotics spread to more than 850,000 people!
Twitter is not the only culprit for medical misinformation on the web. Facebook, MySpace, personal blogs, and chat rooms are jammed with health and wellness advice that appears to be official, yet has absolutely no medical basis.
Jazzercise Founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett offers five tips for weighing the accuracy of health and wellness information that you read online. Consider Missett’s suggestions the next time that you find yourself surfing the Net for a cure to your latest ailment.
1. Consider the Source – Avoid reading about cough and cold remedies from a college student’s personal blog. Instead, go directly to the official sites of reputable health organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic or WebMD.
2. Double-Check Your Information – When searching for health and wellness information on the Internet, it’s always best to check more than one source. If medical information is accurate, then multiple health organizations will concur with the findings.
3. Notice the URL – Remember that sites ending with “.com” are typically for-profit sites, whereas official governmental sites end with “.gov,” and educational sites end with “.edu.” An article may look official, but always check the actual URL address to be sure it’s from a legitimate source.
4. Buyer Beware – If any blog or tweet is promoting a particular product, then read the author’s suggestions with a grain of salt. Reputable medical organizations will give sound advice without a sales pitch for the newest miracle drug.
5. Talk to Your Doctor – Even though it’s more convenient to Google your latest symptoms, nothing takes the place of having an actual conversation with your doctor. Online anecdotal stories and advice don’t account for your individual age, gender, prior illnesses, family history and risk factors.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,800 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.