Here are some websites where you can reliably find trustworthy information on a number of health, wellness, and medical topics. Be sure to also check out our tips for being a savvy health information consumer as well!
General Health and Medical Resources
MedlinePlus is produced by the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library. The site provides reliable, up-to-date information in everyday language about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues. This is an excellent starting point for any search for health or medical information online!
- Mayo Clinic
Another good starting place! The Mayo Clinic site provides a “Find Diseases & Conditions” section on its front page. Each disease or condition includes symptoms/causes and diagnosis/treatment.
- Merck Manual: Consumer Version
First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, the Manual is now one of the most widely-used comprehensive medical resources for both professionals and consumers. See below for the link to the professional version.
- Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network
The RDCRN began in 2003 and now studies over 200 diseases. The Network is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR) of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
- Top Health Websites
A list of recommended health websites from the Medical Library Association including sites for general information and several recommended sites for individual conditions and diseases.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is the federal government’s lead agency for scientific research on the medical and health-care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.
Drugs.com provides information on over 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and natural products. Included is a Pill Identifier and an Interactions Checker.
- Safe Medication
Easy-to-understand medication information from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
- Lab Tests Online
Lab Tests Online provides the what, why, and how of laboratory testing. The site includes a Test Index, Conditions Index, and a Screenings Index.
Nutrition.gov is a USDA-sponsored website that offers credible information to help you make healthful eating choices.
Hosted by the US Food & Drug Administration, this site includes information on recalls and outbreaks, foodborne illness, ingredients and packaging, labeling and nutrition, and much more.
Professional-level, In-depth Resources
DailyMed is the official provider of FDA label information package inserts. The site has options for both healthcare professionals and consumers/patients.
- Merck Manual: Professional Version
First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, the Manual is now one of the most widely-used comprehensive medical resources for both professionals and consumers. See above for the link to the consumer version.
- PubMed Central® (PMC)
PMC is a free full-text archive of almost 5 million articles covering the biomedical and life sciences at the National Library of Medicine at the US National Institutes of Health.
Be a Savvy Health Information Consumer
Here are some tips to help identify and search for quality health and medical information online.
1. Pay Attention to Web Addresses
Each of the following are authoritative resources…
- cancer.gov is the National Cancer Institute (a part of the US Government)
- cancer.net is the American Society of Clinical Oncology (a professional organization)
- cancer.org is the American Cancer Society (a non-profit organization)
All of these happen to be authoritative sources of health information. However, that ending (the domain) can make a big difference sometimes, whether it’s .gov, .net, .org, or .com among others.
Now, take a look at these below. Just because the name of the disease is in the web address doesn’t make it a good site to use. These are examples of sites we do not recommend! Note the issues with each site.
- asthma.com is a site “funded and developed” by GSK, a major drug manufacturer. Tip: Look for non-commercial sites.
- asthma.net is a site designed by Health Union, LLC, which was started by “two former pharmaceutical marketing executives” and which accepts advertising, and “site visitors, members or social media followers may receive emails, survey invitations, clinical trial announcements and other program opportunities from sponsors and partners.” They host a number of disease-specific website (e.g., migraine.com, copd.net, etc.). Tip: Again, look for a non-commercial site with no advertising or solitication.
- coloncancer.net appears to be a site just set-up by an individual, possibly a gastroenterologist. There is no About page, the “blog” is not active or current. Tip: Look for sites that explain who they are, how they’re funded, etc. Look for when the information was posted or updated.
- coloncancer.org is a poorly-designed site with no About page.Tip: Is the site well-designed and easy-to-use? If not, that can be a warning sign.
So, be sure you know who is hosting the site you’re getting your information from! Usually you’re better off if the site is followed by .gov or .org but be sure to investigate a site’s About Us page before trusting that their information is impartial and authoritative.
2. Use Site:Gov on Your Google Searches
Starting your search at MedlinePlus or similar site is highly recommended; however, if you use Google (and everyone does!), here is a way to narrow your searches down to information that is usually more authoritative:
For any term you search for, add site:gov to search for government-sponsored information or research. For example, try clicking this link – cancer site:gov – and this link – cancer – to see the difference that can make.
3. Don’t Take What You See on Facebook at Face Value
You may enjoy reading news from family and friends on social media, but, when it comes to your health, don’t just take those posts at face value. Health-related articles re-posted to Facebook or tweeted over Twitter should always be viewed skeptically. Always investigate where the article came from and who wrote it. Does the research it talks about in the article (especially for diets and exercise!) actually say what the article says it does. If you have doubts, share the article with a librarian and see if we can track down the source together!
Always feel free to contact your local library for help in tracking down authoritative health and medical information! We can’t give medical advice, but we can point you toward information you can trust.
There are some quality Twitter feeds and Facebook accounts that you can follow that will always provide authoritative information including:
- MedlinePlus.Gov at @medlineplus and @mplus.gov
- National Cancer Institute at @theNCI and @cancer.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at @CDCgov and @CDC
- Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School at @HardHealth and @HarvardHealthPublications
Look for and on websites you already trust and follow them!
Finally, if you’re reading something on social media, always try to track down the source. Is it reputable? Are they just trying to sell something? Are there studies to back up their claims?