The following tips can help as you conduct a search for health advice on the Internet:
1 ) Look for government, university, nonprofit, or well-known medical school websites. Sites ending in ".gov" are produced and maintained by federal agencies and typically publish information based on the most reliable and up-to-date research. University and nonprofit websites typically end in ".edu" or ".org" respectively. Be aware, however, that sites containing these endings in their web addresses may not always be reputable, as scammers often set up deceptive sites with addresses that look credible to target consumers.
2 ) Look for credentials of the person or organization sponsoring the site.
3 ) Check when the site was last updated. Credible sites are updated often.
4 ) Check the appearance of the information on the site. It should be presented in a professional manner. If every sentence ends with an exclamation point, you have a good cause for suspicion.
5 ) Exercise caution if the site's sponsor is trying to sell a product. If so, be leery of opinions posted on the site. They could be biased, given that the company's main objective is to sell a product. Credible companies trying to sell a product on the Internet usually reference their sources of health information and provide additional links that support their product.
6 ) Compare a site's content to other credible sources. The content should be similar to that of other reputable sites or publications.
7 ) Note the address and contact information for the company. A reliable company lists more than a post office box, an 800 number, and the company's e-mail address. When only the latter information is provided, consumers may never be able to locate the company for questions, concerns, or refunds.
8 ) Be on the alert for companies that claim to be innovators while criticizing competitors or the government for being closed-minded or trying to keep them from doing business.
9 ) Watch for advertisers that use valid medical terminology in an irrelevant context or use vague pseudomedical jargon to sell their product.