Seriously, Stop Looking Up Health Info on Wikipedia

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Next time you’re freaking out about a health problem, don’t count on Dr. Wikipedia to diagnose you. When experts reviewed Wikipedia’s health articles, they found that 9 out of 10 contained incorrect information, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The North Carolina researchers found mistakes in entries on heart disease, lung cancer, depression, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, diabetes, back pain, and high cholesterol.

The only condition that passed the review was concussions, but even then you’re better off checking in with your doc. While Wikipedia does have editors who red flag statements that aren’t backed up by a reliable source, you should have your head examined if you rely on the free Internet encyclopedia (which is written by volunteers) for advice on potentially dangerous conditions.

And before you write this whole thing off as a neurotic-person problem, know that previous studies have shown 47 to 70% of medical students and professionals admit to using Wikipedia as a reference, Yikes!

If you can’t fight the urge to Google your symptoms, sites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do offer reliable, research-backed information. But when illness strikes, it’s always best to start by reaching out to your physician, who will have insight into your medical history and real-world training and experience. (Let’s just hope that they haven’t been reading Wikipedia, too.)

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