Dr. Google: Why you should not google your symptoms

Published: Friday, February 3, 2023
Family Medicine

Have you ever had a tickle in your throat, a pain in your stomach or a headache? Did you run to your nearest search engine looking for a diagnosis? You just might be a patient of Dr. Google. Even with the best of intentions, your Google search may quickly spiral out of control.

Technology has shifted the way that many approach healthcare, and we now have access to millions of resources at our fingertips. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 72% of U.S. adults have looked online for health information in the past year, and 35% of U.S. adults have gone online to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else may have. Individuals, also known as “cyberchondriacs”, who Google their symptoms can feel a high sense of anxiety when it comes to their health.

Online resources can be helpful, but they can also be confusing, scary and full of misinformation. Rabbit holes can lead to self-diagnosis, which can lead to further worries regarding your health. Dr. Google has no knowledge of your medical history, what prescriptions you are taking or other personal factors that are important to a correct diagnosis. And one of the most pressing issues regarding online self-diagnosis is that it may prevent you from getting the actual help you need.

However, online resources are not all bad. According to the same Pew Research Center survey, it was found that people who educated themselves on health topics online were more likely to get better treatment. If you are going to look up your symptoms, make sure that you are going to a reputable source. Doctors recommend using a symptom checker, like the one you can find in your MyChart account. Doctors also refer patients to university (.edu) or government (.gov) websites. Online resources can be a great way to learn more about the basics, but you should always talk to your doctor instead of self-diagnosing.

Make an appointment to see a doctor

If you’re in need of a doctor, our physicians at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group would be happy to see you. Find one near you with availability – you can even schedule an appointment online.