The Perils Of WebMD

A few years ago, I had what I’ll term an “unusual incident.” Let’s put it this way. Anything that comes out of you should not look like that. I was concerned, but didn’t want to go running to the doctor over something stupid. I casually went back to my desk and Googled the symptom.


Google sends you to WebMD, which is supposedly a good thing. It would be if WebMD would actually prioritize what the causes were. So looking at the top ten, I’m urged, in this order, to see an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, and a liver transplant specialist. Suffice it to say, I was trying not to shake at my desk. All of these were catastrophic health events. Only, something didn’t seem right. The symptoms showed up instantly rather than over time.

Down the page was a more likely culprit: Food coloring. I’d gone to a birthday party of one of AJ’s friends over the weekend and ate some cake with blue icing. A lot of cake with blue icing.

Yep. That was the culprit. Gross, but not life threatening.

I’m wondering if companies should filter out WebMD just to keep employee health costs down. My toe hurts. WebMD will tell me its cancer of the seasonoid bone, an infection of the toe nail by a flesh-eating bacteria, diabetic damage, and eventually, if someone got around to cataloging it, tendonitis. My toe really does hurt, and virtually all foot pain I’ve endured in my life is tendonitis. I asked a couple of doctors. But WebMD doesn’t really prioritize. They just induce hypochondria in the public at large. And it’s on the Internet, so hey, it must be true.

It’s not the worst case I’ve ever seen. A friend once told me of his mother-in-law, who needed to be barred from watching Dr. Phil. One day, Dr. Phil had a specialist on to talk about a serious condition that all men need to be checked for. When my friend’s father-in-law got home, he found his wife in hysterics. She rattled off a bunch of symptoms she had. This was serious. They didn’t need to just go to the doctor, they needed to go to urgent care right this minute! Then she gave her diagnosis, handed to her by Dr. Phil.

She said she had prostate cancer.

Ever had one of those “came out my nose” moments? That was one for me.

The fact is that, while we have an annoying tendency to ignore diabetes (or in my case, deny, deny, deny), arthritis, or high blood pressure, television and the web will send us running to the doctor at the slightest sign of some disease we aren’t even at risk (or anatomically capable) of getting.

All the same, I don’t eat so much cake anymore.


3 thoughts on “The Perils Of WebMD

  1. When Sandi’s cancer stuff started last November, I started researching like crazy on WebMD and elsewhere. About three weeks in, during our office visit her cancer doctor pulled up some of the general information on her deal after I asked yet another question based on what I had read in the middle of the night before. He started explaining how nearly every sentence was very, very wrong and how patients and their families were made needlessly upset by the bogus and very wrong information.

    And food coloring can scare the heck out of you. I too have enjoyed the terror of blue cake.

    • Dana, my issues with black licorice have been in its fermented and distilled form coming from a green bottle. Which, when consumed in large enough quantities along with blue icing, can exacerbate what Kevin has described as the terror of the blue cake. (And then comes the hangover.)

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