'Googling Your Symptoms' Fails Like This Should Scare Moms Enough to Stop

googling health symptoms, woman on computer

As much as I love how the Internet has made it easier to find information, it's got a pretty heavy-duty downside, especially when you're dealing with a mysterious illness or, in my case, a blemish.

I admit that I'm one to Google health symptoms or ask my social media followers medical questions, only to discover that I've got either rheumatoid arthritis or a head cold.

But after what happened recently on my Facebook page, I will never ever EVER ask the Internet for health advice again.

More from The Stir: Googling Your Symptoms Will Make You Sick

I made the mistake of asking my Facebook friends what to do with this weird breakout on my face. I've had pretty clear skin my entire life, so I'm not skilled in dealing with pimples.

I figured someone would have some cream or spot treatment I didn't know about. Then I'd hop over to the drugstore and clear up my face in a matter of days, and all would be shiny and new again.

Cue angels singing.

Instead, I ended up with a bunch of comments ranging from helpful advice to suggestions that I had herpes. Or my favorite one, staph.

STAPH?! As in an infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria that usually manifests as just a minor skin problem -- but can turn deadly?!

Sure, I get that I didn't post a photo -- so people were making assumptions based on my terrible description of what turned out to be exactly what I thought it was: a zit and a little patch of eczema (in case you were wondering). But cripes! Talk about anxiety-provoking, especially for someone who's already a little anxious to begin with.

Also, why would anyone ever say something so serious like that publicly? If I were going to tell someone their condition sounded like it needed medical attention, I'd at least have the courtesy to send them a private message.

Look, on one hand, I love being able to type a few words into Google to get an instant answer about something, or ping a few of my online friends with questions about things like the coolest boots for fall. Or restaurant recommendations. 

Or really anything else that doesn't involve a health situ, after my experience with "minor skin rash turns into horrible deadly disease."

I know that it's super convenient to Google your health symptoms and get medical advice from friends on Facebook and Yahoo and all that. It's a great idea in theory to try to diagnose yourself, your kids, your husband, your parents, and anyone else you care about online. Not to mention the fact that it can save you a lot of time and money by avoiding all those doctor's visits and bills. I'm a busy mom and it's hard for me to rationalize why I should spend the time and cash going to the dermatologist for a pimple on my face.

But what if the Internet is wrong?

Then yeah. That really saves you nothing -- not to mention the fact that it can be dangerous to your health. Never mind the potential it has for giving you a panic (or heart) attack in the process.

So my new rule: If it might require medicine, I'm giving up Drs. Google and Social Media and sticking to people who know what the heck they're talking about. Actual health professionals who went to school for these things and have real knowledge on how to treat them -- the right way.

Do you trust the Internet with health questions?


Image © iStock.com/eyenigelen

general health


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nonmember avatar Amber

When I was pregnant every little thing I was experiencing I would google search it. Google had my minor symptoms being everything from a miscarriage an ectopic pregnancy to even telling me I had cancer. So yeahhhh I stopped asking Dr. Google questions.

nonmember avatar Natalie

I am not trying to be mean, just point out that you did ask these people for advice publicly, so I don't know that they would have known that you'd rather them contact you privately with what they thought it was.

And online searches will give you a lot of information quickly...that's why they're there. But the user needs to realize what's most likely to be causing his/her symptoms and realize that an online search is not medical advice. If you think you have a disease, or something serious is going on, by all means, search away! But that doesn't take the place of medical advice, and no one knows your body better than you do! Trust yourself!

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

Too funny! And I agree probably the quickest way to believe you have a death sentence lol BUT a lot of break outs are staph infections. There are different types of staph. Staph is a category not a specific... some mean stop using "anti bacterial" soaps and it will clear up, others mean your getting something amputated.

TNRCa... TNRCatLady

Exactly what I was gojng to say Farmerswife! It could very well be staph. The first time I got staph it just looked like a tiny pimple but all that happened was I took some antibiotics and a couple bleach baths and it went away- no death! Better safe than sorry though I suppose! As much as I try not to google medical stuff I usually end up doing it anyways haha luckily I'm not one of those people who jump to conclusions from reading a web md article. I swear the internet must be a hypochondriacs worst nightmare though! My poor uncle started having minor pains in his chest and he wasn't really worried but my aunt started googling and became convinced he was having a heart attack. They went to the hospital freaking out and it turned out to be gas. He never lets her google that kind of thing for him anymore :)

Poosa... Poosaloosa

I always feel like these symptom checkers etc. are like the boy that cried wolf. I have a chronic illness, so I will go to check and see if my new symptoms are associated with what I already have and every time they are like, go to the ER!!!! Call 911!!!! Last weekend I had new strange symptoms, I was pretty sure it was related to another issue I had, but everything online said I was having a heart attack. So my husband freaked out said we had to call 911. I made a compromise and let him drive me to the ER. It ended up being related to my chronic problem like I had thought. I still ended up in the hospital for a couple days, but at least I wasn't having a heart attack.

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