Feeling sick? Search with care

Danger of searching symptoms onlineIt used to be that when you didn’t feel good, you called your doctor. But these days, an odd symptom sends us straight to Google. In fact, 80 percent of internet users have searched online for information regarding their health, according to a 2011 Pew Study, with 66 percent having looked up information on a specific disease or medical problem. It makes sense: With all of the resources available immediately to us online, why wait for your next doctor’s appointment?

Unfortunately, not everything found online is legitimate, which is why many experts worry about people relying too much on the internet when researching symptoms. They’ve found that…

  • People can become paranoid about symptoms and self-diagnose themselves with the wrong, scarier disease. So all of a sudden a sore throat means you have cancer. This type of alarm even has its own name, Cyberchondria.
  • Some patients become convinced they have rare illnesses and insist on unnecessary tests, which can be very costly.
  • Other patients don’t go to the doctor when they should because a website tells them their symptoms don’t require a visit.

All that said, it’s unlikely you’re going to stop Googling your symptoms. And that’s okay. Researching on your own can help you understand certain conditions and can make you a more-educated patient when talking things over with your doctor. The most important thing is to visit medically-accurate sites. They should be connected to respected associations or hospitals like the Mayo Clinic or National Institutes of Health and authors should have their credentials listed.

Last but not least, take what you read as general guidance, not the answer. Though doing your own research is a great starting point, it should not be your only path to wellness. If you aren’t feeling right or are experiencing out-of-the-ordinary symptoms, visit your doctor.


Photo credit: freefotouk

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