health

With 71% of parents seeking medical advice online one Facebook mother's group have gone to unusual lengths to help.

Where is the first place you turn when your child is sick? Do you rush off to the emergency department at the first cough or cold? Do we immediately ring the GP and make an appointment?

Well, no,  it seems the majority of us turn to the Internet after all there is a vast network of resources right there at your fingertips.

But the reliance of the Internet as medical resource has worried many Facebook groups who are fearful that mothers will take unqualified advice and unknowingly put a child’s life in danger. This has prompted one Facebook group to bring in an in-house doctor to solve problems and point parents in the right direction.

Where is the first place you turn when your child is sick? Image via IStock.

It comes right alongside a worrying result from Queensland Health research that recently showed that 71 per cent of parents said the Internet was the first place they went for health advice. The most popular advice sought was about toddler behaviour and child development closely followed by immunisations, and rashes and skin infections.

And at the same time the Australian Child Health Poll found that six out of 10 Australian parents had used websites, blogs and online forums for children’s medical information in the past six months.

If you are a member of an online mother’s Facebook group it’s something you will be very familiar with.

From the what-rash-is-this post to the mothers who make recordings of their child’s cough.

Does this sound like whooping cough to you?

To the odd posts you get about children falling, or scratching themselves, burning their hands or bumping their heads.

Should I take him to emergency? What would you do?

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It’s almost like the vast community we have before us to question causes us to second guess our own instincts.

The majority of parents seek medical advice online. Image via IStock.

In fact the use of Facebook as a source of health advice is so great that many online groups now have taken to banning any posts that may be of a medical nature, instead in their ground rules urge parents to seek proper medical advice.

Queensland 13 HEALTH Child Health Nurse Unit Manager Andrea Densley said it’s not surprising we turn to the Internet as it’s so readily at our fingertips.

The Australian Child Health poll recently showed that 71 per cent of parents said the Internet was the first place they went for health advice. The most popular advice sought was about toddler behaviour and child development closely followed by immunisations, and rashes and skin infections.

The study found that six out of 10 Australian parents had used websites, blogs and online forums for children’s medical information in the past six months.

Ms Densley said it’s no surprise parents look there for advice but it was a concern.

“Trusting your child’s health to unqualified, ambiguous and often incorrect advice online is like going into the wilderness without a map. It’s so easy to take a wrong turn and become lost in the sea of information.”

Its something that worried one mother’s group so much they came up with a novel, new millennium solution - instead of banning medical questions they just added a doctor to their midst to keep an eye on the plethora of medical posts that kept popping up.

Dr John McIntosh is a local Mackay GP who has joined a Facebook mother's group to provide advice. ( Image via Facebook.)

Mackay Mums and Bubs Facebook told The Daily Mercury they added local GP, Dr John McIntosh to the group so he could provide advice to the women.

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"If a mum asks a question now, and it's advisable to go to a doctor, we tag Dr John into the question and he comes and gives his professional advice," page administrator Raelene Wells said.

"If he can't give advice from the photo, if the photo's not good quality or whatever, he recommends they go and see a GP."

Dr McIntosh, who owns the Mackay GP Superclinic, told The Daily Mercury providing medical advice over social media was no riskier than giving advice over the phone.

"Practicing medicine's a risk, whether you've got the patient in front of you or whether you're on the phone," he said.

"There's so many people on Facebook discussing these things and sometimes not getting the right advice, so it's much better that we help these people as much as we can."

Parents need to seek reputable sites. ( Image via IStock.)

Queensland Health too advise worried parents not to leave it too late to see their GP, but they do say if you are going to consult the Internet to make sure it is a reliable source.

‘‘Trawling random health websites can lead to confusion and sometimes, parents may think their child is sicker than what they actually are and this can cause anxiety.” Ms Densley said

‘‘And more often than not, this can lead to an avoidable trip to the emergency department.’’

Ms Densley said using a trusted online resource like the Queensland Health website, or one of the other state’s health website was a great place to start if online research was a person’s preference.

Websites that might help:

Queensland Health. 

Vic Better Health Channel. 

NSW Health

SA Health.

Tasmanian Government health

NT Health.

WA Health.

ACT Health.

 

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