Calling Dr. Google

Admit it, if you are like most people suffering from an ailment you do a quick google search to seek answers or a diagnosis for your problem. However innocent your initial search is, it can lead you down a slippery slope of misinformation and inevitably create fear and questions of “what if?” As a nurse, and a future nurse practitioner I would advise against googling your symptoms but as a normal person I fully admit I am 100% guilty of this crime. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times i’ve worked myself into a tizzy over what google told me I had. As a medical professional I know how bad this is, but yet human nature tends to take over and curiosity prevails. Now in reality I know that its easier said than done, no one is going to abandon the wealth of information that google has to offer- but there is good information and bad information out there and if searching you must be able to discern the difference. You also have to have a plan on what you will do with the information you obtain, will you take that information to your Dr. to help in diagnosis or will you ruminate and create even more anxiety for yourself? More than likely you will come across something that says you are in great peril and that you might die from said illness, but rest easy, 99% of the time YOU WILL BE FINE!  Here are a few of my tips that I would tell all my patients.

  • If you are going to google, after you type in your symptom(s) use the word “emedicine” after to help google to bring up accurate information. For example; you google “bad headache” you get a bunch of nonsense that comes up (i.e., peoples personal accounts of terrible things that have happened to them, brain tumors, stroke, ruptured aneurysm etc…) but if you google “bad headache emedicine” you will get medscape articles and information that is far more accurate to what may actually be happening to you.
  • Always remember that you will come across something that will scare you, but keep in mind that even reputable medical websites        have to list the good, the bad and the ugly and 99% of the time you are not dying!
  • Take the information you find that you have concerns about and bring them to your healthcare provider. They will be able to answer your questions and if they feel necessary (based on your symptoms) provide you with the appropriate testing to help diagnose you.
  • If you are highly concerned about what you find online, and it is after hours for your providers practice you can always utilize the nurse staffed call lines that most insurance companies offer. They will ask you for your symptoms and be able to triage the degree of your illness based on certain algorithms. Keep in mind they cannot offer a diagnosis, but can tell you if its best to go to the hospital, urgent care clinic, your doctors office, or wait it out. These lines are usually staffed 24/7 by highly qualified RNs and trust me when I say this- RNs often know more than you think 🙂

I hope this provides you with a start in helping you to use google responsibly when searching your symptoms. It can be a curse, or a savior depending on how you use the information, and remember- 99% of the time you are going to be fine 🙂 Take a deep breath and relax!

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