Dr Google

April 29, 2018

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, CAM

There's been some interesting local research (opens new window) on people with health conditions doing their own research. The Southern Cross Health Society has looked into whether people look up their symptoms on google before visiting their GP. They talked to GPs about their patients, and found out that an increasing number of them are coming into their practices with knowledge taken from the internet of what is wrong with them.

Of course, although this can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing. There's a lot of medical misinformation on the internet, and a GP interviewed for the NZ Herald article about this research talks about how after the first couple of pages of good information in a google search, dangerous alternative medicine websites start to show up.

Interestingly, the research found that the most common self diagnosis is food allergies.

One doctor said:

"People often think they have a serious illness but it's often a busy life, too much alcohol, relationship problems or anxiety. Sometimes it's vague symptoms like bloating, getting tired. That will get paired up with a wheat allergy."

Of course, this is a problem for doctors where patients may insist on being given an alternative treatment because they've read on the internet that it works.

I searched online for "headache dizziness treatment (opens new window)", and on the first page of google results found a web page that told me to use treatments such as:

  • Ginger
  • Indian Gooseberry
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Feverfew

None of these sounds particularly dangerous, but I'm also pretty sure none of them are going to help you either.