There Is a Right Way to Look Up Your Medical Symptoms Using Google

iStock.com/South_agency
iStock.com/South_agency

Doctors often don't like it when patients use Google to self-diagnose their ailments—and not only because it means less work for them. The internet is rife with inaccurate medical information, and if you experience hypochondria or health-related anxiety, as many of the people who obsessively look up their medical symptoms do, heading down a internet rabbit hole can leave you more stressed.

But whether it's a smart idea or not, many of us will look up our medical symptoms online at some point. In 2013, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that about 35 percent of Americans went online specifically to diagnose their own medical condition or that of someone they knew. Of people who went online to seek general health info, eight in 10 started their symptom inquiry with a search engine rather than going straight to a medical website or some other source. With that in mind, there are some things to be aware of if you can't wait to consult your doctor before turning to the web.

To have a positive researching experience, Quartz recommends evaluating your mental state before starting the process. If your quest for more information about your health comes from a practical, level-headed place, it probably won't hurt too much to plug your symptoms into the search bar. But if you've already convinced yourself that something is seriously wrong and you're hoping the search will ease your worries, you should pause for a moment.

Self-diagnosing online rarely alleviates anxiety and often makes it worse. Typing chest pain into WebMD, for example, brings up everything from heartburn to heart attack. So don't start Googling your medical symptoms if peace of mind is your goal. And if you find that looking at health information puts anxious thoughts in your head that weren't there before, log off, or put a limit on your browsing time to discourage such thoughts from popping up in the first place.

Another way to save yourself unneeded stress is by avoiding sources filled with unreliable information. Government websites, like MedlinePlus.gov, and academic sites, like the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, are often the most trustworthy resources. Always check the date on articles to make sure they're fairly recent, and see if the page lists the medical credentials of the author. And even if you're confident in your self-diagnosis, always visit a flesh-and-blood doctor before acting on your search results.

[h/t Quartz]

General Mills Is Recalling More Than 600,000 Pounds of Gold Medal Flour Over E. Coli Risk

jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images
jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images

The FDA recently shared news of a 2019 product recall that could impact home bakers. As CNN reports, General Mills is voluntarily recalling 600,000 pounds of its Gold Medal Unbleached All-Purpose Flour due to a possible E. coli contamination.

The decision to pull the flour from shelves was made after a routine test of the 5-pound bags. According to a company statement, "the potential presence of E. coli O26" was found in the sample, and even though no illnesses have been connected to Gold Medal flour, General Mills is recalling it to be safe.

Escherichia coli O26 is a dangerous strain of the E. coli bacterium that's often spread through commercially processed foods. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most patients recover within a week, but in people with vulnerable immune systems like young children and seniors, the complications can be deadly.

To avoid the potentially contaminated batch, look for Gold Medal flour bags with a "better if used by" date of September 6, 2020 and the package UPC 016000 196100. All other products sold under the Gold Medal label are safe to consume.

Whether or not the flour in your pantry is affected, the recall is a good reminder that consuming raw flour can be just as harmful as eating raw eggs. So when you're baking cookies, resist having a taste until after they come out of the oven—or indulge in one of the many edible cookie dough products on the market instead.

[h/t CNN]

Doctors at a British Hospital Are Now Prescribing Houseplants for Depression

Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to take a trip to the countryside to reap the mental health benefits of being around nature—a single plant might just do the trick (as long as you can keep it alive).

Fast Company reports that the Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England, is one of the first in the country to prescribe houseplants to help treat anxiety and depression. It’s part of a horticultural therapy program led by a local nonprofit called Sow the City, which leads initiatives to foster community gardens in Manchester.

It’s just as much about building a sense of community through gardening as it is about the therapeutic advantages of caring for your own house plants. “There’s evidence that people who are socially isolated have worse health outcomes,” Sow the City director Jon Ross told Fast Company. The organization has also assisted Cornbrook Medical Practice in establishing its own herb garden, which patients are welcome to help maintain. Ross and his team work closely with doctors at different offices to optimize each garden for its particular clientele—sometimes, that means building a small, flora-filled sanctuary that’s just for rest and relaxation.

Other times, it’s a fully-fledged vegetable garden. For a “Hospital Beds” program at another hospital, Sow the City installed raised vegetable beds where long-term mental illness patients can soak in some sunlight, socialize with each other, and take pride in seeing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors flourish. There’s an added physical health benefit, too: The patients get to eat the produce. “We really don’t have good food in our public hospitals,” Ross said.

Sow the City also makes sure that no green thumbs are necessary to participate in any gardening party. Its members populate the gardens with already-healthy, easy-to-tend plants, and they’ll even train patients on how to care for them.

If you’re thinking a garden might improve your own quality of life—doctor’s orders or not—here are 10 easy-to-grow plants for first-time gardeners.

[h/t Fast Company]

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