(baby crying) - Oh, no, sh.
- Wow, Elora is surprisingly cranky.
Like next level.
I don't know what it is, I think maybe it's constipation.
I'm gonna do what I know I shouldn't, and I'm gonna Google this.
- Constipation can get real serious, real fast.
My friend told me that her friend's baby was in the ER within a couple of hours from dehydration and fever.
She's a baby, she's not a doll, she's not gonna break.
You got this.
I don't know, I think we should just go to the ER.
You're not helping.
Whose side are you on?
No, there's so much more research out there.
We got more work to do.
(baby crying) - (imitates baby) I know, me too.
Does this happen to you?
If it does, I think we can help you out.
I'm Dr. Alok Patel, I'm a brand new dad and a pediatrician based right here in San Francisco.
I should probably know the answers to all this, but, keep a secret, sometimes even I look things up.
- I'm Sheena Williams and I'm a nurse in Philadelphia.
Although Alok and I are medical professionals, we have personal medical questions too.
And sometimes, we head right over to Google.
So, let's hash this out.
- If you look at the top 20 health searches from last year, they're all about COVID.
- But if you look at the most commonly searched health questions back in 2019, things were totally different.
The most Google search was, "How do I lower my blood pressure?"
Number two was, "What is keto?"
And number three was, "How do I get rid of hiccups?"
- Now we know COVID is still a big deal, but search topics are starting to go back to what they were.
Let's do something fun.
Let's look at Google trends right now, last 24 hours.
Ready to play?
- I am down.
- I'm going to do Google trends, I'm looking at real time search trends.
Number one, holiday safety, makes sense.
Number two, withdrawal symptoms from topical steroids, probably related to some trending story.
And number three, is ADHD.
Okay, Sheena, how old's your son?
- Four, okay.
So in your mind, at some point, did you ever wanna Google "ADHD" because your son was getting a little crazy one day?
It's kind of like kids nowadays don't even know how to play with one toy at a time.
My son literally can be watching TV, have the iPad open, he's doing this and doing that.
My nephew knows how to mirror the iPad to the TV, like what?
These kids are brainiacs and their activity level-- - I can't even do that.
- Yeah me either.
So, it's one thing because it's making them so tech savvy, but at the same time, I can totally see how it can turn into hyperactivity, especially with now schooling being on the computer too.
You get no breaks.
(giggles) - And I would imagine that there's a lot of parents out there who want to talk more to their healthcare professional about this, they wanna read the right books.
So, I'm not surprised by this.
I'm actually glad that everything out there that could be trending, that people are reading about ADHD.
You just have to find the right information.
Number four is about a new surge in COVID.
And number five is about Lassa fever, which is really deadly, but fortunately very rare.
It's a disease from Western Africa.
There've been less than a dozen cases in the United States, ever.
Let me ask you a philosophical, health search, Google question.
- (laughs) What is it about these headlines that makes them trend?
- Our intention span is very short.
So, if we have a list of things that are probably relevant to our lives, we're not gonna click on that.
We're gonna click on the thing that grabs most of our attention.
And we're clicking on these things not really thinking of whether or not as actually good information.
It just grabbed our attention.
Because let me tell you something, if I see an ad that says that 10 foot spiders are coming to Philadelphia, I'm reading the entire thing, regardless of whether or not it's valid to me.
Because it's scary, it's attention grabbing, and I'm picturing a big ten foot spider.
- That's a pretty good example of what's called a negativity bias.
A real psychological phenomenon where you register negative or scary emotions, more strongly than positive ones.
You might just be looking for one little answer to one question, but then wind up thinking you have five tropical diseases and a rare tumor.
- Something else that trips us up, is something called the availability bias.
What that means is, our minds are a little lazy and sometimes we take shortcuts.
So no matter what information is the most important or the most relevant to us, we'll choose the information that just is most readily available, or the information that we recently saw or sticks out in our brain.
- Like Lassa fever, in then trending topic list, you're probably not gonna get it here in the U.S., but it's bad and it's scary, so it grabs our attention.
Here's another pitfall.
Let's say you're already scared of vaccines and you go online and you type in "blood clots and co" boom!
Before you know it, your screen is just littered with all these things that make a connection between vaccines and blood clots and this reaffirms your fears.
Welcome to the wonderful world of confirmation bias.
But in reality, the risk is minimal.
Quick comparison, the risk in getting a blood clot from pregnancy, taking birth control, or from a lot of other medical conditions, is actually a lot higher than the risk of getting a blood clot from any COVID vaccine.
- So what do trusted sources look like?
And what makes our BS detector go off?
Alok, you said you had a great list.
I'm ready to hear it.
- Here are some ways you can identify misinformation.
First, be on the lookout for any suspicious sources.
If you hear something like, "Oh, according to doctors," you're like, "What doctors?"
Or like, "A leading scientific whistleblower or my friend's cousin."
Something that's not traceable, I'm like, "That might not be a legit source of information."
And always follow the money because someone out there is trying to make a quick buck by getting you to believe in some sensational claim or a quick fix.
- This one is talking about weight loss and liquid diet.
- It's like, "For 129.99, for a six day supply, you too can detox your liver."
Which that doesn't even make sense, your liver detoxes itself.
- And funny story, when I was younger, I was like, "Oh, I'm gonna get skinny.
I'm gonna get snatched, honey."
So I did a liquid diet, which was like, water, lemon, honey and pepper flakes, or some craziness that I tried.
Next thing you know, I was picking myself up off the bathroom floor in a pool of sweat because my blood sugar was probably at 10.
That was a diet that I Googled.
So people, just because the internet says it to be true, or just because it worked for one person, does not mean it's okay for you.
You can really harm yourself.
- And lastly, don't just blindly trust social media influencers.
- Instagram, TikTok, and all of these things, while they can be used for information, they ultimately are also used for entertainment.
At the end of the day, people care about their views and sometimes the things that are most radical, are the most attention grabbing.
- So, let's run through some pros and cons to it.
So, first thing I wanna ask you are, what are some of the benefits you see from people going online to find medical information?
- Immediate feedback.
Dr. Google, we have a relationship at this point.
You get feedback right away, instead of having to wait, to call, to make an appointment, we are in communication right now.
- You take into account the fact that we have about 30 million uninsured Americans, there's probably more, and there's a lot of people out there who are like, "I don't have the money, I don't have access to go talk to a physician or talk to a nurse or talk to a doctor."
- And that does bring up two super obvious reasons why people are going online.
It's easy and it's free.
- Remember that crazy rabbit hole I dove into earlier?
Well, here's the thing, constipation and infants, isn't really that common and all babies are different when they poop.
(baby crying) But if you go Googling for answers, you will find one that stresses you out.
- So tell us your Google health story.
Were you surprised at what you learned?
Did it help you advocate for yourself or did it scare you and really stress you out?
- We know you have stories, we wanna hear them.
So hit us up at PBS Vitals.
Don't be shy.
Thanks for watching.
(upbeat music) - It's probably that intestinal syndrome that was found in Bolivia in the 1950s.
Yeah, I know it's only one in every 17 million babies, but that was before we started eating genetically modified corn.