Way back in the fall of aught-nine, I had swine flu. And bronchitis. At the same time. Because one low-risk but potentially fatal illness is not enough for this girl, nuh-uh. It was a dark era in my life and I don’t like to talk about it. Mainly because I sincerely thought I was going to die for a couple of days there, and had extreme hallucinations thanks to my drug cocktail and high fevers.

One night after I had started to recover, I had a particularly harsh coughing spell. I pulled my tissue away from my mouth and saw it was splattered with blood. I don’t know much, but I know that you are NEVER supposed to cough up blood. Since it was late at night, I popped on over to WebMD and entered into the hellacious, terrifying ride that is their  symptom checker.

It told me I had Tuberculosis and that I was in danger of dying and should go to the hospital immediately. After a moment of thinking I was Satine, but then realizing that there was no angsty, oh-so-talented, charmingly bohemian, tragically impoverished writer to survive me and write our love story, I jumped off that conspiracy theory real quick. I called the University’s 24 hour emergency nurse hotline and the nurse told me I had probably just broken a capillary in my lung due to forceful coughing. She told me to monitor it but I only coughed blood one more time that night and everything was fine.

If WebMD can predict that you will suffer and probably die, it will. Let’s play a little game, shall we? I’m going to tell the symptom checker that I’m having a touch of nausea. then clarify that I am not pregnant, and that the nausea is made worse after eating meals (duh). Let’s see what my diagnosis is.

Ah. The FIRST condition suggested is Gallstones. Logical. Then the possible food poisoning. Then Barrett esophagus, which, what? Then some promising sounding things like constipation, gastritis, gastroenteritis, none of which are a stomach bug. Other highlights from the list of TWENTY include acute kidney failure, carbon monoxide poisoning, and botulinum toxin (botox injection).

I mean, who wouldn’t automatically skip over logical things and go straight to contracting botulism via botched botox?

Let’s play another game. Let’s say I have a sunburn. Ouch. Let’s see… my back is tenderness to touch and warm to the touch. Oh, it must be cellulitis, a deadly and swift-acting infection. It isn’t until the fourth killer option that muscle strain is listed. Sunburn is nowhere to be seen.

Now, I understand they need to list serious conditions. I get it. However, their system needs an overhaul. Why not list what most common people would be searching for first? I honestly feel like WebMD is run by the sex ed/ coach from Mean Girls. Everything leads to a horrible disease and your untimely death.


I’ll see y’all tomorrow. I have to go tend to my deadly disease aka a hangnail.

Come what may,

2 thoughts on “Never Diagnose Yourself Online

  1. Maquita

    I can’t even being to tell you how often I use WebMD and temporarily freak myself the out. I mean, for awhile, I had this weird pain in my toes, and I’m pretty sure it told me that I, too, had cellulitis. It makes sense to me that, for their web patrons who Do have particularly bad things going on, the most grave possibilities would be listed first in order to help them be found first… unfortunately, this leads to hilarious new pathos, like that of “Lily” on Royal Pains, a girl who is labeled a, kid you not, “cyberchondriac” because she does precisely what you did when you “had tuberculosis” and heeds every first-listed, most-deadly disease suggestion above all else. … It also makes sense to me that when I have a funny pain in my toes, I should not be told I have a serious condition and should seek immediate medical attention, but that’s totally what WebMD does. Do they get a commission whenever someone shows up in the ER and says “I WebMD’d this?”


  2. Pingback: Thanks, Internet | Kaitlin Wehlmann's Blog

Leave a Reply