Health advice seems to come from almost everywhere and anywhere these days. The rise in online services, celebrity spruikers and social media mean people feel they can ask just about anyone for their (unqualified) opinion.
Now, Mamamia has learned that Facebook pages dedicated to providing general guidance to young women are also being used to dole out potentially dangerous medical advice, such as advising on medical procedures, diagnosing conditions and suggesting medications.
The nation’s peak medical body has issued a strong warning against the practice. Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice-president Dr Tony Bartone slammed the growing trend as “concerning and disturbing”.
“[The AMA] is aware of the rise in popularity of these sites,” Dr Bartone tells Mamamia.
“When it comes to social media sites and medicine, you certainly have to be on your guard and be very wary of the information that is being shared.”
Despite this, young women continue to take their health queries online rather than to their GP because of the convenient nature of social media — something Dr Bartone describes as “very, very scary.”
“Crowdsourcing means you are not aware of the origin of information. It can be third, fourth, fifth hand. Most importantly, you do not know the qualifications or experience of the person delivering the advice,” he says.
Mamamia has seen scores of health questions uploaded to a popular Australian women’s Facebook group with more than 25,000 members. It is not moderated by qualified medical practitioners.
In one post a member who had undergone a tubal ligation procedure posted reporting “stabbing pain” almost three years after the operation.
Another user recently discharged from hospital questioned the group on whether or not her constipation was being caused by trauma or medication.
In many other posts, users reported unusual side-effects of medication they were taking and requested advice from other group members on whether or not they were normal.
In one extreme case, a member offered to share appetite suppressants from the UK that she believed were "not legal in Australia".
Dr Bartone said developing a relationship with your GP is "the most important investment any person can make".
"When it comes to medical information you need to be absolutely sure that the information is evidence backed, and backed by experience and clinical practice. The only place you can be sure of is with your treating medical practitioner," Dr Bartone says.
"They will guide you on your health journey for the rest of your life. They can provide information through the practice website, practice nurse or practice front desk in any non-urgent situation."
The safest thing you can do is to keep your health concerns off Facebook, and make an appointment with your GP next time you want to know everything is okay.
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