Finding Online Health Resources That You Can Trust

Many people search for health information online. And yet not all online health resources are created equal. Some are reliable and some are not. And it’s important to be able to tell the difference. After all, the stakes are high when it comes to your health. If you get the facts wrong, it can harm you. So how can you find trustworthy, accurate health information online? Check each website for these 5 items.

  1. Source. Look at the extension of the websites you visit. It’s located right after the main name of the website. For example, in the address http://www.healthsite.com/2ndpg.htm, the site extension is “.com.” The site extension can tell you about the source of the information you are reading. For reliable information, your best bets are:
  • .gov: Government agency
  • .org: Nonprofit organization or group
  • .edu: University or academic institution
  1. Credentials. Read the website’s “about us” page. Make sure that health experts, such as doctors, nurses, and researchers, manage the information on the website. This page should tell you:
  • Who runs the site
  • What their credentials are
  • What the review policy is
  • Whether the site is accredited and by what organizations
  • How to reach the people who manage the site if you have any questions
  1. Claims. Look at the information on the site and ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is it sensational? If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Certain words or phrases are red flags. These include “miracle,” “cure all,” and “quick fix.”
  • Where did they get their information? A credible health site will list resources or references on their site.
  • Can I find the same information in other places? If someone really found the cure for cancer, it would be noted on more than one site.
  1. Date. Make sure the information is up to date. Health facts change quickly. The most credible sites will review and update information on a regular basis.
  1. Purpose. Look for websites that aim to inform you rather than to sell you something. Websites ending in .com may not be good sources if they have a sales or marketing agenda. Be especially wary of websites that sell health remedies. They may be marketing scams. Red flags to look for include products that claim to cure diseases, ease pain, restore memory, or reverse the effects of aging. High-pressure sales tactics and money-back guarantees are also red flags.

There are a lot of great health resources online. If you want to learn more about a certain health condition or how to live a healthy life, these resources can be very helpful. But your doctor is still your best resource. If you’re not sure about health advice you’ve found online, talk with your doctor before you try it. And always check with your doctor before you make any changes to your health routine.