Why You Shouldn’t Google Your Symptoms

July 8, 2024

You know you’ve done it.

That slight headache, a twinge in your back or a weird rash has sent you straight to Google to diagnose yourself. You inevitably start to panic that you have a fatal health issue.

You’re not alone. Sixty-five percent of Americans turned to Google to decipher their symptoms in the last year, and it may have been a bad move.

The internet has so much information, but not all of it is reliable. Make sure the source is credible.

A symptom-checker such as WebMD or the one provided by the Mayo Clinic may be more accurate than clicking on the first thing that comes up when you search.

Still, take the results with a grain of salt.

Getting inaccurate information can cause you to worry needlessly and can lead to unnecessary doctor visits. Due to their own liability issues, the sites you search for medical advice on the internet will tell you to seek the advice of a medical professional – even when it’s not needed.

You’re safer contacting a doctor anyway since your information is covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. That’s not the case on the internet.

Third parties are often tracking what you’re accessing online, and they’re collecting your personal information.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and any number of retailers can track your internet activity even when you’re not directly using them.

Your information could also be captured by advertising and analytics companies, or even cybercriminals.

Though the goal of this information gathering is to target you with relevant ads, there could be some serious downsides.

  • Embarrassment. When you search for something private on a shared computer, whether at home or at work, you run the risk of your fellow users seeing ads related to your search.
  • Getting hacked. Your data profiles that various companies have collected may not be separate from your personal identifying information. Additional third parties may not have great security on their end, leaving that info vulnerable to anyone with a bit of internet savvy. They could potentially get enough information on you to steal your medical identity.
  • Harassment. Even looking up a legitimate medical issue could have adverse results. You could end up on a mailing list for lawyers who are looking to cash in on people with specific medical conditions.

It’s possible to be safe when googling your symptoms or doing anything else on the internet.

There are apps that can block third parties from getting your information, as well as websites that effectively hide your identity and don’t save your search history.

Save yourself the hassle

When it comes right down to it, googling your symptoms isn’t worth the potential dangers.

From unnecessary worrying to the wrong person getting hold of your personal information, the risks aren’t worth the potential benefit of attempting to diagnose yourself.

If you have an issue that doesn’t resolve quickly on its own, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

You’re more likely to turn to your doctor for help if you have adequate health insurance.

Contact UROne Benefits™ here or at 800-722-7331 for a consultation to determine if you have the health insurance you need. Our experts can help you review your current plan and guide you to one that better suits your needs.

This post was originally published in Aug. 2018; updated July 2024.