Most of the information turned up by online searches seeking information about baby sleep safety is wrong, researchers said.
Fewer than half of websites (43.5%) that offered accurate facts about infant sleep safety were also consistent with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, Rachel Moon, MD, of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, and colleagues reported online in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Clinicians may want to consider "offering URLs of specific websites that they have identified as accurately reflecting the AAP guidelines," they wrote.
The reliability of health information on the Internet is highly variable - a concern given that a recent national survey found 72% of adults feel they can believe "most or all" of the health information they find on the Web, the researchers said.
The AAP has specific recommendations for infant sleep safety aimed at reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation, but when parents and providers have specific questions about those recommendations, they're likely to turn to the Web.
Moon and colleagues searched using 13 key phrases and assessed the first 100 results, scanning a total of 1,300 sites.
They labeled the information on those sites as accurate, inaccurate, or not relevant.
Overall, they found that 43.5% of sites provided accurate information, 28.1% gave inaccurate information, and 28.4% were not relevant.
When they excluded the sites that were irrelevant, still only 60.8% of sites provided accurate information about infant sleep safety.
The researchers noted that certain terms yielded more accurate information than others. For instance, "infant cigarette smoking" turned up sites that were 82% accurate, "infant sleep position" yielded 74% accuracy, and 73% of sites about "infant sleep surface" were accurate.
On the other hand, only 14% of sites found by searching "pacifier infant" were accurate, as were 18% of those about "infant home monitors" and 20% of those about "infant co-sleeping" - though they noted that bed sharing is a controversial topic even among health professionals.
Thus, the high percentage of sites with inaccurate information isn't surprising, they wrote.
During searches, the most common type of site encountered was that of a company or an interest group, followed by retail product review sites and educational sites.
Government websites had the highest rates of accuracy (80.9%), while blogs and retail product sites had among the lowest (25.7% and 8.5%, respectively).
Moon and colleagues noted that sites like eHow.com and About.com often rely on experts, including physicians, to write their content - yet even these contained "frequently inaccurate information," they wrote.
Source: Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today. Published: August 03, 2012.