ACCORDING to a recent article in the Irish Independent, young people are now turning to Google in massive numbers to gain access to information regarding certain health issues. This is in favour of seeking medical advice from their own doctors.
There are, of course, many pros and cons to this. When going online you have unlimited access to various articles or journals concerning health matters, but on the downside you are never entirely sure if they apply to your ailment. The Independent also stated that young people were least likely to ask a doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain things they do not understand. One of the key reasons behind this was a feeling of embarrassment and this could also explain why there has been a rise in Google diagnosis over the past few years; you are, for the most part, anonymous online. But, you know, not completely right?
So what happens when you turn to the internet and you don’t get the answers you need? You may end up self-diagnosing a condition that is far from the truth, or worse, you may trivialise your actual serious condition by deciding it’s something less sinister. Let’s take a look at a few examples of what can happen when you type vague ailments into Google using the three top search options.
1. Key words: “Itchy, burning rash.” According to Healthline.com, I have diaper rash, scabies or sepsis, along with 56 other possible causes for my imaginary rash. WebMD tells me I have lice (whereby I immediately start to scratch my head) or chickenpox. MedicineNet alerts me to a possible contact dermatitis condition and, again, diaper rash. (No, I’m pretty sure I don’t have that one).
2. Key words: “Sharp pain in arm.” Healthline.com tells me I’ve got arthritis or rickets. WebMD tells me I’m about to have a heart attack. (Jaysus, I sure hope not.). MedicineNet says I broke a bone. But I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t need to Google if you had a broken bone, self explanatory, no?
3. Last one so lets make it gross. Key words: “Infected cut with pus.” (Yack!) Healthline.com says I have a post-cesarean infection going on but I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a baby, like, ever. WebMD says it’s diabetes (not too far a stretch with all the donuts I’d be eating). MedicineNet tells me it’s lymphangitis, which seriously doesn’t sound fun lads.
Anyway, the whole point of this was to alert people to the dangers of self-diagnosing or using Google as a substitute for an actual doctor’s advice. The best thing you can do is to visit your doctor if you feel you have to and if you need any more questions answered but you’re too afraid to ask in person, that’s when you can turn to Google. I started this article with seemingly good health and now I’m leaving with mad lice and diaper rash. Thanks Google, thanks a lot.