Vitamin G

True Health Confession: I Turn to Google Before I Call a Doctor

I head to my go-to medical source at the first sign of illness.Only...it's not really a medical source.And it's definitely not a physician--unless we call it "Dr.Google."

I head to my go-to medical source at the first sign of illness.Only...it's notreallya medical source.And it's definitely not a physician--unless we call it "Dr.Google."

I know that Googling symptoms isn't the best-ever idea.When you search on a string of random symptoms,you'll get a string of random diseases as results--and at least a few of them are guaranteed to be rare and deadly.Guess which ones I focus on first?(But I'm not the only one!Up to 60 percent of peopleconsult the internet for clues about their symptoms before calling a doc.)

Now,new researchfrom the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is highlightingjust why self-diagnosing is problematic: the closer we are to the person we're trying to help (and,asMSNBC points out,we are certainly very close to ourselves),the more likely we are to misdiagnose illnesses--because we focus on our symptoms instead of the likelihood that the illnesses could actually occur.

In other words,we tend to assume the worst about our own health--but we stay calm and objective when it comes to someone else's.For example,if a stranger has symptoms of indigestion,we'll assume it's indigestion.But if we have the same symptoms,we're either more likely to overestimate and think we have something like a heart attack--or we underestimate and write off our symptoms altogether.

This...actually describes my husband.Yesterday,part of his toe was temporarily numb and so he thought that he might have had a small stroke.(He's fine--no stroke!Just the weird effects of a new shoe.)

According to the study's authors: "One of the easiest ways to get rid of this bias is to see a real doctor instead of Dr.Google.A real doctor possesses much more knowledge and will take the prevalence of a disease into consideration because she is viewing the patient from a distance.This will prevent symptoms from exerting a disproportionate influence on the diagnosis."

Point taken!Do you Google your symptoms?Are you a self-diagnoser?What do you think of the study?

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