Social media can have a harmful impact on how patients make their healthcare decisions, said David Stukus, MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Meeting Program Committee, during ACAAI’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Houston.

Although Dr. Stukus does see benefits and good information on social media, he shared his concern that “social media gives everyone an equal voice – even those who are not giving out correct information. The years of training and clinical experience allergists have is given the same weight as unqualified individuals performing their own research using online search engines.”

It is common for people to search online for health information, but misinformation and inaccurate facts can impact peoples’ medical decisions. Dr. Stukus says, “This misinformation has a negative impact on medical decisions made by people with food allergies.”

For example, it is easy to get enthusiastic about seeing promises of food allergy cures or at-home food sensitivity testing kits, however there are no cures and at-home testing often leads to meaningless results.

It’s essential for patients to seek out and confirm the information they find online is from trustworthy and reputable sources.

If patients have online information that they are curious about, Dr. Stukus has a recommendation: bring questions to the allergist instead. “I’d much rather someone with a food allergy bring me information so we can discuss it rather than starting a treatment without asking my opinion,” he says.