Sick women looking online

3 great health websites to check in New Zealand

sickoncomputerMany of us go to Google before we go to the doctor or the pharmacist when we’re feeling a bit crook. Here are the best health sites in New Zealand for checking what your symptoms might mean.

If you are currently experiencing a medical emergency, even if you don’t know the possible cause, go to your nearest hospital or phone 111 for an ambulance.

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New Zealand Ministry of Health

This A – Z guide listing symptoms and conditions is an easy way to find out the most likely causes of your symptoms. It covers everything from abdominal pain to vertigo, vomiting and beyond.

Health Navigator New Zealand

This is another A – Z guide, but it covers more than just symptoms and conditions. It covers anything that might affect your health and cause worrying symptoms, and possible treatments. It’s a particularly useful guide if you already have a vague suspicion as to what might be causing your symptoms. For example, it describes how consuming too much caffeine can cause heart palpitations, headaches, anxiety, and death from overdose.

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Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

This is an A – Z guide listing feelings, mental health conditions, and mental health support. It covers everything from dealing with ADHD to Tourette syndrome. No matter what mental illness you’re worried that you or someone you love might have, you can find it here and figure out how to cope with it.

The Foundation also has an amazing list of apps that you can use to help you cope with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

If you are currently having suicidal thoughts, we recommend that you read their page on Suicide: coping with suicidal thoughts, before you do anything else.

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How much should you trust an online symptom checker?

Before we let you go look up every symptom you have, let’s talk about the accuracy of online symptom checkers. According to a 2015 study by Harvard Medical School, these online tools are only “spot on” with a diagnosis about 50% of the time. The best symptom checker they found was Symcat with 75% accurate diagnoses.

Dr. John Wilkinson, an editor of the Mayo Clinic’s symptom checker, said it’s “designed to be a starting point” that helps patients start thinking about what questions to ask their doctor or pharmacist. Unfortunately, studies show 30% of web users who use an online symptom search don’t go to the doctor later but just decide to start their own treatment for whatever they’ve decided they have.

Jason Maude, co-founder of one of the study’s top-ranked sites Isabel, says patients should use online tools as a second opinion after they’ve seen a doctor. That way the patient can check there’s no diagnosis options they might have missed because they forgot to mention a certain symptom in their conversation.

So don’t become a “cyberchondriac” who’s afraid that their headache is secretly a brain tumour – because it’s probably not. But if you do use an online health checker, follow it up by visiting your GP. Remember, real doctors have a medical degree and can listen to you, and you can ask them questions. Don’t be left in the dark about your symptoms.

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