Have you ever turned to Dr Google when you’ve been feeling under the weather? If you have, you’re not alone. Nowadays, tons of people research symptoms they’re experiencing on the world’s largest search engine. But while many of these searches confirm that the searcher is suffering from a common cold, others can see a simple sore throat query spiral off into diagnosing all sorts of rare conditions. It’s a reality that makes Googling health conditions both convenient and potentially terrifying. As the year draws to a close, the team at Google Trends has released information on the most popular heath questions people in the UK asked the search engine in 2017. Topping the list is the rather generic “why do I feel sick?” search. That’s followed by “why am I always tired?” and “what is cancer?” Have you ever heard of lupus? It seems many people have and want to know more about it, as “what is lupus?” is fourth on the list. This could be because pop icon Selena Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2015 and underwent surgery for the condition over the summer. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes sufferers to feel fatigued, have swollen or painful joints, and skin irritation or rashes. Because lupus is an autoimmune disease it is not contagious. More information about lupus, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website. The final question completing the top five is “what is sepsis?” Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can be triggered by an infection and leads to the body attacking its own organs and tissues. Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early enough and hasn’t already damaged any vital organs. More information about sepsis, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website.
According to health officials at Public Health England, more patients should be advised to go home and get some rest, rather than be prescribed antibiotics. In fact, the health body says that up to a fifth of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary and many conditions get better on their own. Overusing antibiotics runs the risk of bugs developing an immunity to certain drugs and developing into so-called superbugs in the future, which cannot be treated with current medicines. While antibiotics are, of course, vital for treating sepsis, pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and other severe infections, they are not essential for every illness. For example, common coughs and bronchitis can take up to three weeks to clear on their own and antibiotics only reduce that timeframe by literally a few days. Prof Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, told the BBC: "We don't often need antibiotics for common conditions. "The majority of us will get infections from time to time and will recover because of our own immunity." He said patients should not go to their doctor "expecting an antibiotic". So don’t be surprised if your doctor isn’t quick to prescribe you antibiotics the next time you’ve got a cough or a cold. They will actually be doing you a favour in the long-run and helping to prevent the rise of drug-resistant superbugs that we all should be concerned about.