Dr Google: you might want to search your symptoms online, but is it really a good idea?

Reviewed and fact-checked by Giulia Guerrini, Superintendent Pharmacist. Read our editorial policy to see how we create informative, accurate content.

As an online pharmacy, we know how important it is to speak to medical experts when we’re feeling unwell. However, we're all guilty of turning to Google symptoms before speaking to an expert – often resulting in Dr Google telling you that your runny nose is going to be the cause of your death.

Gif of a search on Google

When we start to search our symptoms online, Dr Google likes to take charge and suggest what we may be searching for. If you type in ‘Should I call the doctor’, Dr Google will suggest finishing your sentence with ‘if I have covid?’, ‘for croup?’ or even ‘for a tick bite?’

Gif of a search on Google

The best place to find treatments for your illness will always be via the doctor or your pharmacist, however Dr Google still likes to try and play their part. When you search for ‘Best treatment for’, the internet search bar will try and finish your sentence with ‘sciatica’, ‘piles’, ‘acne’ and – unsurprisingly - ‘covid’.

Once of the most searched for medical-related online searches on Google over the last 12 months has been ‘super cold symptoms’, which saw an increase in searches by as much as +2,200%. The top five biggest medical-related search increases we found were:

  1. Super cold symptoms: +2,200% (search increase over the last 12 months)
  2. What is fresher’s flu?: +2,150%
  3. Chest pain after covid: +2,050%
  4. Covid vaccine back pain: +2,000%
  5. Headache after covid: +2,000%

Infographic with text: searches for 'Pain in chest' rose by 100% over the last 12 months

We’ve also discovered that, over the last year, some interesting searches that saw an increase throughout 2021 were ‘is lower back pain a sign of covid?' (+1,100%), ‘headache worse when lying down’ (+500%), and ‘what does heartburn feel like?’ (+450%).

Giulia Guerrini, the lead pharmacist here at medino, has sat down to discuss why it’s so important to make sure that you speak to a medical professional, rather than searching your symptoms online.

No one likes going to the doctor, however it’s so important to make sure that you’re in control of your health. Next time you’re feeling unwell, don’t speak to Dr Google, instead make sure you contact your GP or speak to a pharmacist as we’re always here to help.

Google won’t know the ins and outs of your condition, big or small, and therefore can’t accurately diagnose you. Instead, it will either make your symptoms appear to be life or death or, in some cases, downplay them. Neither scenario is good for you, your health or your mental health and wellbeing.

Written by Natasha Edwards