Googling your child's symptoms could delay treatment

A new study explains why you could be making things worse.

May 11 2017

A new study by the American Academy of Paediatrics, found Googling a childs symptoms can cause friction between parents and doctors, possibly delaying a diagnosis, The Independent reports.

The study involved 1,385 parents. Participants were split into two groups and told about a child presenting “a rash and worsening fever for three days”.

One group was given a screen shot of scarlet fever symptoms, and the other was given a screen shot which listed the symptoms of Kawasaki disease, a condition that can lead to serious complications.

A third control group wasnt given a screen shot. 

All participants were told that a doctor had diagnosed the child with scarlet fever.

In the first group, 90.5 per cent trusted the doctor's opinion and 21.4 per cent said they would get a second opinion. In the second group, 61.3 per cent pf people trusted the doctors diagnosis and 64.2 said they would seek another opinion.

In the third group, 81 per cent of participants said they trusted the doctors diagnosis.

Lead author Ruth Milanaik, an associate professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York, said the study’s findings suggest that searching symptoms on Google can lead parents to second guess their doctors.

“The internet is a powerful information tool but it is limited by its inability to reason and think,” she said. “Simply entering a collection of symptoms in a search engine may not reflect the actual medical situation at hand. 

“These computer-generated diagnoses may mislead patients or parents and cause them to question their doctors’ medical abilities and seek a second opinion, thereby delaying treatment.”

However, she says parents should absolutely express their concern and discuss the result of internet information so the physician can explain why the findings should or shouldn't be considered.