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admin 28.06.2014

The AAP just launched the KidsDoc Symptom Checker, which helps look up specific symptoms by body part. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently launched their own “symptom checker,” called the KidsDoc Symptom Checker, available at (there’s an iPhone app too!). Or another example: fever and stomachache, the symptoms I picked, can sometimes be pneumonia.
These symptom checkers assume that the person you are checking about is generally healthy. If your child is sick or injured, and the illness or injury is anything more than mild, call your doctor. That’s the thing: as wonderful as the internet is, it can’t give the personalized attention your child deserves—and sometimes really needs. Claire McCarthy, MD, is a primary care physician and the medical director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center.

Over the past few years, the amount of health information available on the internet has skyrocketed, and many sites offer to help you make diagnoses, whether it’s through specific health information, quizzes, or a “symptom checker” that allows you to look specifically at what might be causing the fever or stomachache—or rash, or whatever. It’s very straightforward: you run the cursor over the part of the body where there’s a problem, and you get a menu of possible symptoms in that area.
Usually there is cough, but sometimes the stomachache is bad enough that parents think of it as the major symptom. But if your child has a chronic health problem, like sickle cell disease or asthma, or a problem with their immune system, the advice you need may be very different from what a symptom checker will give you. Use it for general health information, stuff like nutrition advice, parenting help, safety tips, health news. I don’t mean to diss the internet (especially as someone who writes for it), but it can’t ask all the necessary questions, and it can’t do a physical examination. For example, I ran the cursor over the abdomen (pretending I have a child with fever and stomachache), and it gave me Abdominal Pain and Constipation as possibilities.

It does help you figure out when you should put down the laptop and call the doctor, which (as a doctor) I appreciate. It’s a great place to find out all those things you always mean to ask at the doctor’s office but forget to, or those things you feel like you shouldn’t bother the doctor about (although most doctors are happy to be bothered by parents wanting to learn about health!). So I clicked on Abdominal Pain, and it gave me information on possible causes of abdominal pain, advice on when to call the doctor and some home care instructions. And the application, along with the whole web site, has all sorts of wonderful health information to help you take better care of your child. The little girl actually had diabetes; the skin irritation was from urinating all the time, which happens when your blood sugar gets very high.

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