Where does the habit of googling symptoms come from and why is it harmful – expert explains

Health Tips

Why are we doing this?

In Russia, the culture of taking care of one’s own health is just being formed. Unfortunately, in general, many are ready to seek medical help only in emergency cases, while every third person is engaged in self-medication. Reasons why people don’t see a doctor include:

  • doubts about the effectiveness of treatment;
  • distrust of medical organizations;
  • unwillingness to pay for treatment;
  • desire to know everything here and now;
  • lack of time;
  • fear of medical procedures and interventions.

It is sad, but the fact is that a large number of people do not trust specialists, but are not afraid to treat symptoms and diseases found there according to recommendations on the Internet. And this is a worldwide problem. A few years ago, Swedish doctors even recorded a tongue-in-cheek song called “Never Google Your Symptoms.” And in the comments to the video, people shared hundreds of their stories.

What is the risk

Having prepared dinner according to a recipe found on the Internet, we will be a little upset if something goes wrong or the combination of ingredients is not as tasty as we expected. But still, we will continue to experiment in the kitchen further. With health, Internet experiments can end much worse. Even a person who does not suffer from hypochondria, in his seemingly harmless search, can go very far. When looking for the causes of headaches, weakness and fatigue, you first attribute everything to stress, weather and lack of sleep, and after half an hour you are already trying on dozens of diagnoses, from migraines to brain tumors. And after another half an hour, you have medicines for all occasions in your online pharmacy basket. With this approach, you can face a lot of problems:

  • the opportunity to earn chronic and side diseases in the process of incorrectly self-diagnosed and chosen treatment;

  • panic and aggravate the stressful situation, which could already cause ailments;

  • encounter scams on dubious forums. For example, getting an online consultation with an unqualified specialist. Telemedicine in our country is now actively developing, but still it is better to get a referral for such a consultation in a specialized institution;

  • run into advisers of unconventional and even dangerous methods of diagnosis and treatment;

  • as a result, this can turn into quite large expenses for consultations, tests and medicines, which could have been avoided.

How to overcome this habit

Be more conscious about searching for diagnoses on the Internet. You can study general information about the disease, common symptoms, but entrust the diagnosis and the appointment of tests, studies and drugs to a specialist. In the case when you already have a diagnosis confirmed by a doctor, the Internet can become an additional, but by no means the main source of information. If you doubt the results, listen to the opinion of another real doctor, not a Google doctor. Medical diagnostics is a complex process that requires experience and a wide range of professional knowledge.

With such a rapid development of digitalization, it is very difficult to influence the habit of people to self-medicate on the Internet. But it is important to convey the message that the information found by no means can reflect the entire clinical situation.

We also add that during the pandemic, the attitude of Russians to health has changed for obvious reasons. For some, it has deteriorated significantly and requires therapy, rehabilitation. For some, due to self-isolation, a decrease in the number of social contacts, mental health has suffered to one degree or another. Due to public anxiety, the fear of anxiety is growing – against this background, it is easy to suspect one or another diagnosis and get on the Internet for clarification.

By the way, a doctor on the Web can also make a preliminary diagnosis. There are resources where, for a small fee (for example, 300 rubles), you briefly formulate a question, and the doctors who are online at that moment answer it. We advise you to think before using such services. To make a diagnosis, the doctor must take a history, look at the results of tests or prescribe them. Sometimes a doctor’s recommendation is urgently needed – in this case, it is better to use telemedicine, that is, to communicate with the doctor remotely. In some cases, this service will be very useful, but again, not always. While it is not familiar to all patients and doctors, but in any case it is better than googling the symptoms.

Photo: Pexels.com

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