Mums – is there anything worse than having a precious little one sick at home? We’ve been there, and we can tell you now that it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. All we want to do is ease their pain and tears, and help them to feel better – which is why we turn to every resource at our disposal to try and make a diagnosis.


Indeed, we’ve all turned to good old Google at some point or another, typing symptoms into the search engine and either feeling really comforted, or even worse, haven’t we? Well, it seems we’re better off skipping the Google stage, and heading straight to the doctor’s surgery.


This is according to a new study carried out by a team of researchers from the American Academy of Paediatrics, and published in the journal Science Daily.


The study claims that Googling your child’s symptoms could be dangerous, as it tends to reduce the parent’s trust in trained medical professionals. This, in turn, can result in a delay in treatment for the child.


As part of the study, the research team gathered a group of 1,374 parents and presented them with the exact same scenario: their child had been ill for three days, suffering from a rash and fever, and their symptoms were worsening.


The parents were then divided up into three groups, each of which was presented with a different ‘diagnosis’ scenario. The first group was presented with screenshots for an online diagnosis of scarlet fever and strep throat; the second group was given screenshots for an online diagnosis of Kawasaki disease; and the third group wasn’t presented with any screenshots.



All three groups were then informed that the doctor had diagnosed their child with scarlet fever. The reactions to the diagnosis proved extremely telling and interesting.


A whopping 81 per cent of the control group (the group that hadn’t been presented with any screenshots of potential diagnoses) immediately trusted the doctor’s diagnosis. This wasn’t the case for the ‘Google’ groups, however.


Indeed, only 64.2 per cent of the scarlet fever group trusted the doctor’s diagnosis, akin to the 61.3 per cent of the Kawasaki disease group.


Commenting on the significance of the findings, lead author Ruth Mailanaik explained: “The internet is a powerful information tool, but it is limited by its inability to reason and think.


“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.”


Not that mums looking for a second opinion shouldn’t share their concerns; no, Mailanaik qualifies her statement: “Parents who still have doubts should absolutely seek a second opinion. But they shouldn’t be afraid to discuss the result of internet information with the physician."


This sounds like solid advice to us.