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Weekly Alibi The Doctor is In(ternet)

Free Medical Advice on the Web

By Devin D. O'Leary

SEPTEMBER 8, 1997:  I feel close enough to all you nameless, faceless people out on the Information Highway to share a little bit of personal information. I have this--medical problem. No, not cancer. No, not AIDS. No, not Mad Cow Disease! Jeez, you people are grim. It's just a little wart on my toe. A plantar wart to be specific. No big deal, really, but I want to get rid of it ASAP. On the other hand, being naturally a'scared o' medical types, I'd really rather not go to the doctor. So where do I turn? Where else?

Wholeliving (www.wholeliving.com)--Since I hate doctors, maybe alternative medicine is the way to expunge this demon. This site claims to "utilize Intermedia Synergy to unite the online world with holistic community." Say what? This New Age-heavy Web page has a directory of services, a list of articles, interviews and a few book and music reviews. Maybe this isn't exactly what I need. The "directory of services" lists everything from accupressure to yoga, but contains little hard information. It's basically a phone book of people who can perform these services, whatever the hell they are. If I want someone to perform "the Alexander treatment" on my wart, I can find a willing practitioner. I'm just not sure it would do any good. Moving right along. ...

Henrietta's Herbal Homepage (sunsite.unc.edu/herbmed/)--Maybe the less New Agey, more grandmotherly advice of Henrietta will do me some good. This frame-based site compiles both medicinal and culinary herb lists. There are herbalist links, plant pictures, a plant name database and even herb software (shareware) for DOS and WIN31. Unfortunately, all of Henrietta's lists are by herb name, so unless I already know what I need to treat warts I'm SOL at this site. All the lists are also stuck in hard-to-get-at ZIP files anyway. How about spending less time in the garden and more time organizing your Web site, Henny?

Combined Health Information Database (chid.nih.gov/)--OK. Enough of this "alternative medicine" hokum. I want some appropriate advice, and I want it now. This time around, I turn to the government. This site, a joint effort of the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control, has a searchable database and a small master list of categories to choose from. The master list covers everything from AIDS education to weight control. Although no actual information is contained on this site, it does give you the correct address to write to get the assorted info and government pamphlets you need--helpful, but hardly high-tech. I run "plantar warts" through the search engine just for the hell of it, but come up empty. I guess the CDC has more important things to worry about than my toesies.

Mediconsult (www.mediconsult.com/)--Now here's a professional-looking site. It's designed to provide support and information for patients and relatives. There are daily updated medical articles, an online bookstore, drug information and a chat room. I run "wart" through the search engine here and come up with several e-mails from a woman named Barbara in the chatroom woefully asking why she can't find any "St. John's wart" to treat her depression. Probably because it's St. John's wort, Babs. Good job offending a saint. Over in the drug information section, though, I do find tons of useful info on salicylic acid, the most common over-the-counter treatment for plantar warts. I learn all about proper use, side-effects, alternate medicines. I also find out that it's the exact same stuff in Clearasil. If you're looking to hunt down some detailed info on that new drug you're about to start popping, I suggest you start here.

Virtual Podiatry Hospital (www.medmusic.com/)--Finally, some specialized info! For some really odd reason, this site contains both the Virtual Podiatry Hospital and WebMusic, a "charity record label for children." Whatever, kids, I'm movin' on to the foot info. From the main VPH page, a simple map gives access to an assortment of foot problems. Click on "heel pain," "bunions," "flat feet" or others (with groovy accompanying pictures) to nail down the big scoop on those barkin' dogs of yours. Naturally, there's a bit on plantar warts. Woo-hoo! The plantar wart section basically runs down all the different treatment types (in this case: chemical, laser and surgical) and all the inherent pros and cons of each. The VPH eventually concludes that "pulse dye laser treatment" is the best. I'm also suspecting it's the most expensive. Thanks for the free advice, though.

--Devin D. O'Leary

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