This is my second article about online symptom checkers. On the first article, I described the basic concepts of how an online symptom checker works and what it can and cannot do. My goal is to help my readers get maximum benefit form online symptom checkers and understand how to avoid the potential problems you may have by using them incorrectly. The first thing you need to know about using online symptom checker is to understand when not to use one. This is very important because using online symptom may give you false reassurance and you may lose valuable time in situations where timely diagnosis can be critical. In order to understand when not to use online symptom checker, you need to understand when you need to seek urgent medical care. Here are a few things you need to know before using an online symptom checker to help you make important decisions about your symptoms:
1.Use common sense:
I cannot overemphasize this point. Do not use an online symptom checker to override what your common sense tells you. When it comes to your bodily symptoms, you need to first use your common sense, before anything else, in deciding what you need to do. If you feel something and your common sense tells you that it may be something bad, do not use online symptom checker to try to find a possible diagnosis. If your common sense is warning you about a danger, simply call your doctor or go to the nearest ER.
When it comes to your body, your common sense is sometimes more than simply a common sense as it applies to other things in your life. Your common sense about your symptoms also come from your body’s intuition. If you feel bad and worried about a symptom, it may be that your body is trying to warn you about it. Do not ignore it.
2. Sense your “fight or flight” response:
All animals have an innate ability to sense danger. We all know how we fell when we suddenly encounter a life threatening situation. It is something that happens to our body and we fell it very strongly and unambiguously. Now, think about what happens to you when you are in a dangerous situation. Your heart beats faster and stronger, your senses become heightened, your pupils expand and you become more more alert. You also start to breathe faster and take in more oxygen. This type of bodily response is called “fight or flight” response. It is believed that this response helps animals prepare to either fight the dangerous situation or run away from it.
Your body reacts with a “fight or flight” response not only to external dangers but also to internal dangers. When you have a new symptom and you feel your body going into a “fight or flight” response, you need to understand that your body has picked up a dangerous signal from inside your body. When that happens, do not use an online symptom checker; seek medical help.
3. Your medical history:
When you have a history of known medical problem, do not use online symptom checker. For example, if you had a heart attack in the past and you are now having similar symptoms; do not use an online symptom checker. When you know how you feel when your body has a certain problem, that is your gold standard for that problem. It does not matter if your symptoms were very unusual for the disease. If you had a certain feeling to a symptom in the past and now you are feeling the same, that is a very specific symptom of that disease for you.
Online symptom checkers analyze your symptoms based on the typical or common symptom of a disease. Your memory of past event gives you a very specific symptom that happened to your own body. Your own experience of a past medical history always beats online symptom checkers. Do not even consider looking up your symptom in an online symptom checker if your past experience tells you something.
4. Certain symptoms always need prompt attention:
If you have certain warning symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention and never use online symptom checkers to analyze them. You do not have to memorize these symptoms. If you closely follow the common sense rule and “fight or flight” rule, you can easily decide whether your particular symptom needs urgent attention. Chest pain, trouble breathing, feeling like you are about to faint, not being able to move an arm or a leg, not being able to talk, not being able to walk, not being able to eat, vomiting blood and other similar symptoms are the examples of symptoms that should automatically prompt you to call for immediate medical help. Do not try to analyze these symptoms with online symptom checkers.