TechieTalk: Net Medicine

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-09-24, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

I'm currently suffering from whooping cough. When I visited a clinic I was given mild antibiotics for my sore throat and congested chest and was told to rest and push the fluids because I had a mild chest infection. The cough rapidly became much worse and after doing some homework online I guessed that I might have whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis). After a second visit to clinic I was prescribed clarithomycin; an antibiotic designed to reduce the infectious stage of whooping cough.

What is particularly galling about this whole episode is that my whooping cough was completely missed and, had I not decided to investigate my own illness; it might have been ignored altogether. More worrying is that I was advised by the emergency services to visit the clinic during an infectious stage of the illness, thus risking infecting other patients.

While I understand that medical professionals, even good ones, can miss things, it bothers me that I had to be my own doctor and this is not as uncommon as you might think. For example, recently in Canada there have been multiple instances of doctors misdiagnosing an extremely debilitating and potentially life-threatening illness called Lyme disease.

Doctor House

The point is that not every doctor is Doctor House, so if you wish to do some research next time you are ill, here are some online tools that I have personally found to be useful-

MIMS Online Asia (

This is an online version of a commonly used desk reference for drugs used by medical professionals. Look carefully next time you visit the doctor and you might see a copy in the office. I use this to check what the possible side-effects are of any medicines I am prescribed by my doctor or buy from the pharmacist. Note- you can also find this information on that little leaflet that you get with your medication, but the presentation of information is better and easier to read online. MIMS Online requires free registration but, unlike the UK version, registration is open to the general public.

Web MD (

This is both a drugs information database and a diagnostic system, but I found the drugs database to be incomplete. On the other hand, the diagnostic system is quite thorough. In some ways it is too through. When I tested it with my symptoms, it brought up many wildly differing possible diagnoses. Also two of the symptoms I entered at the beginning of the session caused a warning window to pop up telling me to seek emergency medical attention.

Esagil (

Esagil is named after a renowned ancient Babylonian boffin and medical expert Esagil-kin-apli. When I tested this free diagnostic system with my whooping cough symptoms, I was quickly presented with a list of possible diagnoses. Top of the list was whooping cough. Also the list of possible illnesses returned were graded with probabilities giving you a more intelligent guess as to what might be wrong with you. I like this software- it is fast, easy to use and contains minimal visual bling.

One last word of warning- don't go crazy with these tools and fall prey to hypochondria thinking that you have every illness or adverse drug side-effect under the sun. And remember if you feel ill, go see a real doctor; don't ignore your illness or try and treat it yourself.

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See you next week.

NB/ I did not have whooping cough, do not self-diagnose, and go and see a doctor!---2021-10-29