An image of the google app on a device

When one in 20 Google searches are health-related, it is no surprise that Google has created “Dr Google” health cards, vetted by a team of “medical doctors”. But can you trust it?

You’re not alone if you’ve been there, you Google your suspected symptoms and it brings up a list of potentially dire conditions, implying you’re about to take your last breath. There’s even a name for the medical anxiety suffered by individuals after they have researched their symptoms online – cyberchondria. Fear of having an illness or health condition, in general, is known as hypochondria. People with hypochondria can be obsessive about their health and tend to self-diagnose the worst possible prognosis for themselves. It is much safer and better for your mental health to consult a qualified medical or health professional before leaping to any conclusions and becoming panicked or stressed about a condition you may only potentially have.

There are still, however, many benefits of carrying out your own online research:

• It can provide reassurance about information that you have received from your doctor or specialist

• It can provide information about treatment options and services available to you

We are not recommending that you stop visiting your doctor and only rely on Google. When researching medical conditions online, here are some important tips to remember:

• Not every one that publishes content online is medically trained. Google will show you results from thousands of sources. Some of these may be written by experts and health professionals but there is also a good chance that you could wind up seeing inaccurate or unverified information.

• Google may lead you astray and cause you to make unnecessary trips to the doctors. Self-diagnosis is very dangerous and can cause you and your family needless anxiety and stress.

• You may already suffer from anxiety, which can be heightened if you Google a symptom and a severe health condition shows up in your search results. Typing “sore throat” might give you results like throat cancer, when you might just be suffering from a common cold. Try to stay calm, and if you are concerned about symptoms you are experiencing, there are verified sources you can use (listed below) or you can seek the assistance of your family doctor or GP (General Practitioner).

So should you stop Googling your symptoms? Not necessarily… as long as you remember that the most commonly found symptoms are the likeliest and you should visit your doctor if you are at all worried. If you have complex needs, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor or specialist over “Dr Google”.

What sites can you trust on the internet?

Health Direct

This is an Australian and government-funded service that covers virtually all bases, providing up-to-date and verified information about conditions and diseases, treatment options, nutrition, fitness, women’s health, and links to a host of state and territory health services. You can check your symptoms and receive advice on what to do, or who to contact from there. An invaluable and trustworthy first place to look.

Virtual medical centre

A popular Australian site that includes an enormous amount of information, including health calculators, sections on men’s and women’s health, and a wide range of 3D animations and videos from experts as well as patients.

WebMD

Consistently rated the most popular health site on the internet, WebMD is an American based site and contains a wealth of useful information, including advice on eating and diet, pregnancy, parenting, relationships, mental health and even pet health.


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