It’s no secret that when people need information they turn to the internet. In fact, Google now processes more than 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. “World Cup” was the top Google search of 2018, but searchers are looking for information far beyond soccer scores. People are scouring the internet for everything from houses to buy, recipes to try and investments to make to name only a few. It’s probably not surprising then that the internet has become a critical source of medical information as well. In fact, the majority of Americans say they learn about medical symptoms and treatment options more often from the internet than their doctor, according to a Merck Manuals survey conducted in 2018.
So what were medical consumers searching for in 2018? A deeper dive into the top 10 most-searched terms on the consumer version of the Merck Manuals website last year uncovers some interesting insights about medical concerns in 2018 and what conditions and ailments made us look to the web for answers.
The top 10 searches on merckmanuals.com
Here are the 10 most-searched terms among North American visitors to the consumer side of merckmanuals.com:
Spider bites was the top North American consumer search term in 2017 as well, and cellulitis, staph infections also made the list. Searchers in 2017 were also interested in ticks, but more searched for Lyme disease specifically.
3 Questions Behind the Most-Searched Ailments
Of course, every search on our site has different motivations and thinking behind it. But some clear trends emerge when looking at the 2018 list. Merck Manuals consumers had questions and turned to our site for answers. Here are three search trends we’ve identified based on the most popular search terms.
1. What bit me?
We’ve all had the experience of looking at a bug bite or skin irritation and wondering where it came from—and if it’s going to get worse. It’s a scary feeling.
Four of the 10 search terms were directly related to bites and stings. Readers wanted to know if it was a tick a spider or another kind of insect or arthropod that bit them. Other searches covered potential complications from bites. Even pain in multiple joints can come from Lyme disease from a tick bite (though it’s a less common cause). Not surprisingly, searches for tick bites and spider bites were more common in spring and summer months, when more readers were outdoors and likely to fall victim to a creepy crawly bite.
2. Am I at risk for infection?
Visitors to the Merck Manuals were concerned about a number of infections, including staphylococcal infections, cellulitis, and fungal infections.
An open wound from a particularly nasty bite or sting could lead to these conditions, but there are a number of other causes as well. Recently, a strain of Staphylococcus that is resistant to previously effective antibiotics has become a more common cause of cellulitis. These developments may well be driving an increase in consumers searching for more information about different infections.
3. What do my test results mean?
Info on ailments and conditions isn’t the only medical material moving online.
According to one recent Accenture survey, more health care consumers are accessing lab and blood-test results through a patient portal. Based on 2018 searches, people are turning to the Merck Manuals for help decoding these results.
Trusted, reliable medical info is crucial
Whether it’s identifying a scary bite or interpreting acronym-filled test results, the need for accurate and trusted medical information is more important than ever. When it comes to well-researched, vetted material, many websites and sources of medical information online come up short. Health care consumers deserve information that’s accurate, actionable and written with their needs in mind. The Merck Manuals remains committed to providing visitors to our site with the knowledge and tools they need to make better decisions and improve their health.