Health @home

However, in addition to the sites that focus on particular illnesses and ailments - like asthma, for example - there are numerous general health sites covering a broad range of health topics. Many act as online encyclopedias, marshalling information on symptoms and cures to give overviews of different topics.

Other sites have sprung up to sell medicines and pharmacy goods, and we take a look at a couple of these e-dispensers.

A large number of sites is one thing, but can you trust them with your health? Is there a danger in turning to the Web rather than visiting your doctor? Nearly all health sites included in this story warn visitors that the service should not be viewed as a replacement to visiting your doctor. If you have a niggling health concern, however, these sites could point you in the right direction for treatment and help, and give you an overview of what to expect when you do visit your doctor.

The other danger, of course, is to your privacy. Many of these sites require registration. In most cases, this means providing the standard information asked for in online registrations, but it pays to read the site's privacy policy carefully before providing personal information. If in doubt, don't provide information you don't think the site needs to know. When it comes to information on one of the most private aspects of your life - your health - don't risk giving your details to sites you don't trust.

The other thing to keep in mind is impartiality. Does the site's advice conveniently recommend sponsors' products? Who, or what company, is behind the site? Take the time to first do some research on the site to understand whether it's a valuable tool. For more tips for using health sites, see the box "Tips for healthy living online".

GENERAL HEALTH SITES

  • Healthanswers

  • The Health Network

  • Health Insite

  • AllHealth.com

  • Thrive Online

  • Real Age

    DIET AND WEIGHT LOSS SITES

    There are loads of sites catering to people who are looking to lose a few kilos - from real-lift stalwarts like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers to online-only options. Here's a sample:

  • Family Health Network

  • eDiets

  • Weight Watchers

  • Nutrition at About.com

    PHARMACIES ONLINE

    The world of the chemist has not been immune to e-commerce. You can now order your prescriptions online, although you will need to mail the paper version (no faxes) for verification.

  • eMedical

  • Pharmacy Direct

  • Pharmacy Online

    PLUS:

  • online resources

  • tips for healthy living online

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    Deanne McIntosh

    PC World
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