Common Cold or Brain Tumor? Ask Google


Dr. Google is in: The Web giant is flexing its medical muscles to provide more information on health-related searches.

We've all been there: Worried that headache is more serious than a few aspirin can cure, you frantically look up symptoms and become overwhelmed by the possibilities (brain hemorrhage, stroke, cancer?!). In fact, roughly 1 percent of Google searches are symptom-related.

"But health content on the Web can be difficult to navigate, and tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress," Product Manager Veronica Pinchin wrote in a blog post.

So starting this week, when you ask Google about a "headache on one side," the results will be much more streamlined. Based on information collected for Knowledge Graph, as well as the opinions of medical doctors and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic, Google will provide a list of related conditions.

A query of individual symptoms, meanwhile, also generates an overview description and information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a visit to your physician.

"By doing this, our goal is to help you to 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," Pinchin said.

Rolling out first on mobile for English-speakers in the US, symptom search is intended "for informational purposes only," Google said, reminding users to consult a doctor for medical advice.

Additional symptoms, languages, and regions will be added in the future.

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