The internet can be a powerful resource for research but it’s also a terror if you’re feeling ill. Runny nose? You’re dying. Itchy arm? You’re dying. Bleeding profusely from your ears? You’re fine. A simple search can turn even the most hardened individuals into hypochondriacs, meaning Google can be an unreliable aid.
Knowing full well how misinformation can spread, Google on Monday said it’s going to rein in dubious search results by providing people with more realistic information. If you have a headache, it’s probably due to something simple like an incorrect eyeglass prescription, stress, or tight headwear, not cancer.
“Our goal is to help you navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional,” Google explained.
The search giant says when people search for symptoms, it provides information based on similar searches and then compares results against high-quality medical information from doctors. In fact, Google says it worked with a team of medical doctors to review individual symptom information, including experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic.
The update to search should be rolling out over the next few days, with Google promising to add more symptoms in the future. For now, that pain in your throat is probably just a tiny infection and doesn’t mean you have to start drafting up a will.