HEALTH

Tweeting about health

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A tweet that might seem like too much information can actually be used for the greater good, experts said.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University filtered through more than 2 billion tweets and, after cutting out the ones about “Beiber fever,” they found that 1.5 million tweets are related to health. They included tweets about the flu, cancer and depression, among others.

Professor Mark Dredze says using Twitter t track what people are saying about their health can help experts better understand what people are sick with and how they’re self-treating.

“So we know for example, according to our study that people are using Benadryl to treat allergies, but they're also using it to treat insomnia at night,” he said.

The study also found out about popular misconceptions, like using antibiotics to treat the flu or using antibiotics incorrectly. Dredze says this information can help experts clear up some misconceptions and tailor messages to what people are tweeting about.

Researchers say using Twitter to track health and illnesses has its limits. For example, Twitter is mostly used by younger generations which limits the amount of information about seniors’ health concerns.

Also, people who use twitter typically comment about an illness only once – making it impossible to track specifics.

While Tiffany Chan doesn’t always appreciate the tweets about feeling sick, she agrees there can be some use in tweeting about your health.

“It's really nice to know about certain remedies … if I hear someone has had success with a particular medication,” she said.

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