Clever mum diagnoses child's cancer, thanks to the internet

Googling your kid's health symptoms isn't always a bad thing. Just ask this mum who caught her child's rare disease just in time

Do you, like many other parents, google health symptoms? While “Dr Google” is not always the best medical expert, sometimes, turning to the search engine might not always be a bad thing. Just ask 30-year-old mum Laura Handley who diagnosed her daughter Tazmin’s blood cancer after she researched on the internet.

Laura first noticed red bruises on her two-year-old daughter’s body, but thought nothing of it. But then she came across the story of a 13-year-old boy who had similar symptoms. It turned out that the boy had blood cancer. He died a week after he was diagnosed.

Concerned, she decided to google health symptoms she found in her daughter, including easy bruising and little pinprick rashes (petechiae). 

google health symptoms

Image source: “Tazmin’s fight against AML” Instagram page

According to google searches, her daughter might have been developing myelodysplasia (pre-leukaemia). Her fears were confirmed when her daughter’s paediatrician echoed the same diagnosis during a check up the next day.

Her daughter’s white blood cell count rose, and then she had full-blown leukaemia. Laura recalls it as “every mother’s worst nightmare.”

If not for the article that prompted her google search, Laura is unsure if her daughter would have pulled through.

As of this writing, Yazmin is in remission. We hope she continues to make a full recovery!

If you google health symptoms, be extra careful!

Yes, this mum’s story shows that if you google health symptoms, you might be able to stop a serious disease in its tracks. But it is important to be careful whose medical advice you take.

The internet provides a wealth of information, but this doesn’t mean all of this data has been vetted or verified by experts.

Your child’s paediatrician knows your child’s health history better than anyone. Even so, it’s always best to get a second (and even, third) opinion when it comes to the health and well-being of your little one. 

Those who habitually google health symptoms might have cyberchondria

According to Women’s Health, the average woman spends about 52 hours consulting Dr. Internet for medical advice, but only visits an actual doctor thrice in a year.

If you can relate, then you might be at risk for cyberchondria. 

Those with cyberchondria or cyberhyperchondria compulsively google every ache and discomfort, convinced that they can diagnose themselves.

google health symptoms

Though cyberchondria might not officially be a disease just yet, it is no less a reality for many mums.

Being dependent on strangers online sounds like it might be a bad idea, but if you can’t help but rely on the internet, the best you can do is to try to channel it into more positive ways. 

Here are some smart strategies to use the next time you’re tempted to google health symptoms. 

1. Gain some distance and perspective

Try not to assume that your kids have something life threatening. First, get into the right frame of mind before going online. 

Read through articles thoroughly and most importantly, objectively! If your child doesn’t have a majority of the symptoms, then it’s likely not a cause for worry.

2. Don’t pressure yourself to self-diagnose

List down all symptoms and just trawl the internet for possible diseases to consult your child’s paediatrician about. 

Don’t be in a rush to find answers. If you make this a habit, you will tend to just take everything you read to heart, even if they are beyond inaccurate. 

3. Be specific

Some symptoms – like headache, fatigue, diarrhoea – are common in both minor and serious conditions. Naturally, if you google using vague terms, you’re bound to come up with something scary. 

So be specific when describing your child’s symptoms. Then, prepare to explain these to their paediatrician during your visit.

4. Be open to being proven wrong

Keep an open mind once you consult a doctor. Don’t be so intent on a certain condition that you read about online because remember: your child’s paediatrician knows their history best.

Accept that though your assumptions are well meaning, they aren’t always correct. 

5. Try to search without googling

We all have our go-to sites for certain content, but the site most of us visit most often is google.

We key in search terms, relying on the first hit to be most accurate. While this might be true for other subjects, we can’t risk it when it comes to health concerns.

Go to reputable websites that have “symptom checkers,” like NHS Choices and patient.info. But it’s important to take all advice with a grain of salt, even if it comes from so-called medical experts. 

6. Take action

If you find yourself freaking out too much, try to limit your internet time. Book an appointment with your child’s paediatrician immediately, if only to allay your anxiety.

Most of all, trust your instincts. It’s always better to be extra vigilant, mums!

A world of information is just a click away, but with great access comes great responsibility to be discerning and savvy. Always make sure your child gets the best health care possible, both online and offline.

sources: The Guardian, Women’s Health, Fox News

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