Why You Probably Shouldn’t Google Your Health Symptoms

Have you been guilty of looking up your health symptoms online? If the answer is yes (well, of course you have!), you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, it’s such a common worldwide occurrence that organisations have even put together online ‘symptom checkers’ for individuals to match their symptoms against diseases to hopefully drive them towards a more accurate diagnosis. But, Googling your symptoms, even with some level of medical understanding, has its concerns. Let’s take a look, shall we?

False Positives

This means that for every set of symptoms there is a plausible diagnosis, even if that diagnosis is not correct. So individuals are led to believe from Googling that they have a serious medical condition and this can create a huge amount of unnecessary anxiety.

False Negatives

Through Googling symptoms individuals are led to believe that they in fact do not have any medical condition, or that their medical condition is trivial and will go away by itself without treatment, even when in fact they do have a serious medical condition that needs medical attention. Arriving at this conclusion via Googling then becomes falsely reassuring.

Incorrect Treatments

Many a time spent Googling will lead to incorrect treatmentsuggestions for certain medical conditions or unsafe treatment suggestions that put an individual at risk of developing worsening symptoms or a more serious illness.

Misadventure

It’s important to keep in mind that many posts on the Internet are there for the purpose of making money from those that read their site.

In this way, they guide the reader to believe they either have a terrible illness or no illness at all for the purpose of buying products, books, or other goods online from the website. This is downright wrong, but unfortunately with lack of online regulation of material it happens frequently.

Lack of Evidence

it seems that everyone is an online expert giving advice that lacks credibility and evidence. Not only can this be misleading but also poorly informed. For the most part Googling medical advice simply can not be trusted.

Lack of Clinical Judgement

The greatest skill a doctor has is the ability to use clinical judgment to piece together all the presented information about a patient to arrive at a clinical diagnosis. This includes clinical examination and listening to the patient, something a computer simply can not replicate.

So, although Googling of symptoms will still happen my advice to individuals is always seek a medical opinion before making any health conclusions.

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