How to Find Reliable Health Info Online

Written By:Stacy Simon
African American man using his laptop at home

When you’re facing a serious illness, the Internet can be a valuable resource. A good online search can help you find answers to your questions and connect you with people and resources to help when you need it most.

But a bad search can get you wrong or outdated facts, medical information that may not apply to you, or even worse, an invitation to be scammed when you’re most vulnerable. Here are some ways to stay savvy as you search online:

  • Look for trustworthy and reliable websites as your sources. Sites affiliated with government agencies, hospitals, universities, and major public health and health advocacy organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, are often the best places to find quality information on the disease. These organizations work to provide fact-based articles that are reviewed by noted experts and updated often.
  • Check with the Health On the Net Foundation (HON). HON is an organization based in Switzerland whose mission is to guide people to useful and reliable online medical and health information. Participating websites must agree to abide by an ethical code of conduct, which covers things like authorship, documentation of materials, and sponsorship of the site.
  • Be suspicious of websites that make claims of “miraculous cures” or “secret ingredients” only available from one company, sites that feature stories of people who have had amazing results from a product without showing clear scientific data, and sites that make it hard to connect with the person or business running the site. Such sites may contain information that is not based on careful science and may deliver misleading information in order to sell you a product.

Although the Internet can be a useful way to learn more about health information, programs, and services, it is not meant to take the place of a doctor’s care. If you have a serious illness, seek the advice of a trained health professional who can look at the specific details of your health and help you make informed choices.

Buying Prescription Drugs Online

Buying prescription drugs online can save you time and money, but you should watch out for a few things.

Some websites that sell prescription drugs are operating without a license, operating illegally, or operating from a foreign country where shipments to the US are unregulated. That means the US has not checked to make sure the medicine was shipped and stored properly, is within its expiration date, and contains the ingredients the website says it does.

In addition, some sites that say they’re from Canada really get their drugs from Asia, South America, or Eastern Europe, where fake drugs are more widespread and rules are not enforced as strictly. And some fake sites have stolen consumers’ financial or other personal information.

The US Food and Drug Administration says a safe website for buying online prescriptions has these 4 things:

  • It’s located in the US and licensed in the state where it’s operating.
  • It has a licensed pharmacist you can contact with questions.
  • It requires a prescription from a doctor licensed in the US.
  • It has a way for you to talk to a person if you have problems.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviews websites to determine if they maintain safe pharmacy practices. Check the list for the ones it recommends.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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