I am a lazy hypochondriac. When it comes to sickness, I always assume the worst-case scenario…and then do nothing about it. The internet is terrible for people like me, because, in two clicks, I can find out that my headache is really a brain tumor and that I’m dying. I know I’m far from the only one out there who googles symptoms; if you ever need some entertainment, do a quick internet search for insect bites. Just make sure that you don’t look at the images on an empty stomach.
The lazy part kicks in when I opt for a home remedy (apple cider vinegar, anyone?) rather than actually go to the doctor. In most cases, the “wait-and-see” approach has served me well. However, when my children are involved, I turn into a guilty lazy hypochondriac.
One of the toughest parts of motherhood is dealing with a sick kid. I don’t mean critical or chronic illnesses–because that is stress on an entirely different level–but rather the run-of-the-mill cold or stomach virus. As soon as either of my children start acting out of sorts, I automatically assume they’re either teething or growing. About 90% of the time, that is true. But occasionally, it’s more than that and doubt creeps in.
Do I take my child to the doctor or wait it out? Do I give her medicine or let the fever break on its own? Is she contagious: should I keep her home from school/activity/so-and-so’s birthday party?
Sometimes the answers to these questions are obvious, and we go to the doctor without thinking twice. But there are other times when my children aren’t that sick, and I agonize over every little decision. Am I doing the right thing? Am I being a responsible parent?
Enter Dr. Google.
Just like with any other topic, the amount of medical information floating around on the internet is staggering. Not only is the sheer volume overwhelming, but it’s also a challenge to discern how much–if any–is reputable and not just an anecdote from some random person’s friend’s aunt in Australia.
In my experience, the internet has often proved reassuring in that my child is not the only one to experience particular symptoms. Sometimes, it’s worrisome, but in those instances, I’m usually led to seek medical advice from other–actual human!–sources. Regardless, in nearly every scenario, it’s annoying. It’s annoying because my husband refuses to trust my instincts (read: non-researched anecdotal evidence) unless he’s seen it on the internet first.
Recently my older daughter had a rash that was eventually treated as strep throat…even though the strep test came back negative, and she never had a sore throat or fever. Whatever it was, she fully recovered, thank heavens, and we moved on with our lives. Well, most of us, anyway.
My husband was, of course, out of town during most of the ordeal and had to rely on my daily accounts of our daughter’s prognosis. Evidently he didn’t realize the extent of the rash, because, when he returned home, he was shocked at her appearance. Her skin had begun peeling like a bad sunburn. I thought she looked–and acted–110 times better, but apparently that was not enough to dissuade my husband from launching a full internet investigation as to what her illness was. Oh, the possibilities!
In the end, all of his sleuthing was inconclusive. He did learn a lot about weird rashes, however. I am just grateful that antibiotics seemed to take care of whatever afflicted our daughter. I have no desire to conduct any more internet research…until the next strange sickness hits.
But I think even then I will rely more heavily on what my husband dubbed the “mom net.” Hearing from other moms about their children’s illnesses, and especially receiving advice from my nurse friends, has been infinitely more valuable than any Google search. The internet doesn’t know our children, and more importantly, isn’t responsible for them. As mothers, sometimes the best we can do is trust our gut, and go to the web for back-up.