(Article originally appeared May 23, 2002)

There is too much hype about health on the net, but there is also too much scaremongering from the traditional gatekeepers of medical information. The quality of information is highly variable, and much of it is poor. But the web can still be a valuable tool – if you use it carefully. So how do you do that?

The internet is booming as a source of health information. Where we used to phone our mother, or reach for the ‘home doctor’ book on the shelf, now we’ll hop online and type “skin rash” into a search engine.

It’s fantastically convenient. The web can lead you to an enormous diversity of resources: from medical dictionaries and scientific journals through to snake-oil sellers, virtual hospitals, and e-mail discussion groups for the world’s rarest diseases. But when I type “skin rash” into my favourite search engine, it throws back “about 264,000″ sites – so many the computer can’t even count them! Where do you start?

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Post filed under Health Information.