A friend of mine asked me the other day if I thought it was possible that he had the early stages of the Ebola virus. First I was shocked and concerned about my friend and I asked him why he thought it was Ebola. He said that he had been feeling bad for the past couple of days and went online and his symptoms seemed to point to Ebola.
I asked him for his symptoms, and he said he was experiencing headaches, joint pain, red eyes and occasional muscle aches. He said that when he typed those symptoms into Google it said it could be the Ebola virus. I then reminded him those could be symptoms of anything even just regular allergies. Of course, as I said this I did take a couple of steps backward, just to be safe.
Undoubtedly my friend was joking but the conversation did get me thinking about how many of us try to diagnose ourselves with stuff we research online. Pew Research did a study that said 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year.
I must admit I have been guilty of this myself in the past. But I eventually learned my lesson after giving myself many bouts of anxiety. I remember several times researching some ache or pain only to leave the screen believing I had only a few months left to live or at the very least some illness that would mean a prolonged hospital stay. In every case, I came to find out the real malady was something much less serious and easily curable.
According to the Pew study, 53% of people who have researched their symptoms online have discovered that the online diagnosis was not correct. Now I know there are those of you out there who say that proves that almost half the time the online diagnosis is correct. Sure you could look at it that way, if you are the test tube is half empty kind of person. I on the other hand think that if you have symptoms that you feel are serious or if these symptoms are weighing on your mind, go and let a medical professional check you out. In the long run, you will be glad you did.
My friend ended up having a simple virus that cleared up in a few days of him seeing his doctor. I told him I was very glad to hear that he was doing well and that he didn't have Ebola.
As I'm finishing up this column I am beginning to feel a little tired and it seems as if a headache is coming on. I wonder if I should Google my symptoms? You know just because my friend didn't have Ebola doesn't mean that I can't have it.
On second thought, I will just go take a couple of Tylenol. Nothing is safer than a couple of Tylenol, right?