Can we trust Google's advice? - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Can we trust Google's advice?

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MADISON (WKOW) – Got a question? Google it… but don't forget to get a second opinion.

A study released Thursday picked a topic and went through tons of search results, only to find most of the information was either irrelevant or just plain wrong.

The information published in the Journal of Pediatrics says 59% of Americans used Internet searches for health information in 2010. Parents searching for information about their children were among the top users.

"I am pregnant right now so any question, like if I'm cramping, I Google it," says Shelby Peak.

But that should just be your first step.

"You wouldn't want to start any definitive treatment before confirming your diagnosis and running it by a doctor," says Dr. Andrew Nelson at St. Mary's Hospital.

That's something the Journal of Pediatrics article further emphasizes.

It shows 72 percent of adults thought they could believe most of the health information online, and 70 percent said it determined their course of action.

"It always steers me in the right direction. Sometimes it is weird advice, but most of the time it works," Peak says.

But when researchers looked at 1,300 Google results after searching "infant sleep safety," only 43.5 percent of sites had accurate information. Others were irrelevant or completely wrong.

Like babysleepsite.com, for example, that suggests babies can sleep on their stomachs when they can roll onto their tummies without help.

"That is not safe. That can be dangerous for a kid," says Dr. Nelson.

So, check your sources. Safer sites usually end in .gov, .state or .org-- like the websites for the American Medical Association or American College of Cardiology.

"The Dean healthcare system has MyChart, where you can email your doctor. There's also nurse on-call triage line," Dr. Nelson says.

Even if you're not a Dean patient, you can call 1-800-576-8773 for advice any time of the day.

But nothing should take the place of actually visiting your doctor.

"We visit there probably once every couple weeks for allergies, pink eyes, boo-boo's and things like that," says Dean Young.

The study found most of the inaccurate information was coming from blogs and retail product reviews.

If you are looking for accurate infant sleep safety recommendations, it suggests the following websites: Health Finder, Medline Plus and Health on the Net Foundation.

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