Doctors Share Their Worst 'I Looked It Up On Web MD' Patient Horror Stories

You wake up one day and you're not feeling well, so you decide to Google your symptoms and browse through WebMD to figure out what might be going on. And then your worst fears come true, your tummy ache is a sign of impending death. But that's according to the internet, not a doctor, which is why matching symptoms with info on the internet is no substitute for a doctor visit.

Wakanda4eva4eva asked doctors of Reddit: Who has been your worst "but I looked it up on WebMD" patient?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

16. Good Luck With That, Mama

So does Pinterest count too? I had an odd experience recently. I'm a recovery room nurse and while discharging a patient, her daughter told me this: "All diseases and medical conditions can be cured by eating specific foods. I have done my research. there is a lot of information on Facebook and Pinterest. My mother shouldn't be here-she just needs to eat more sweet potato." For context, the patient had a double mastectomy and lymph nodes removed where unfortunately the cancer had spread.


15. Diving Board To Conclusions

The person who refused to tell me what symptoms they were actually having.

They had decided that they had pneumonia and any time I tried to ask what they were experiencing they just said "I have pneumonia! Don't you know what the symptoms of pneumonia are?!" Pretty sure they looked it up, decided they had, but couldn't remember the exact symptoms...


14. You Just Don't Fit The Bill

Nurse here. I have a lot of WebMD stories, but my favorite is the 57 year old woman who came in for routine visit and a request to try a new medication that she saw advertised on TV. Her visit was for a complaint of increasing urinary retention over the past three weeks. Most urinary retention in women is due to a mild bladder infection... very common in women that age.

When we asked her about the medication she wanted to try, she said the TV ad said it was for urinary retention, so we listened. She took out a scrap of paper with the name of the medication scribbled on it: Flomax. Well. That's not what'll work for her and the doctor quickly said he could not prescribe it for her. She was a little offended at the refusal and asked why not. The doctor said, "Flomax is for benign prostatic hypertrophy and you don't need it." She demanded an explanation. The doctor bluntly explained, "This is treating an enlarged prostate. Women don't have prostates."


13. Should Believe The Professional


I've worked in a pharmacy on and off for the last ten years so I've heard quite a few doctors stories about patients. One I recall is about a patient who was suffering from severe migraines and was adamant they had a blood clot in the brain. Quite an assumption to make, doctor assured them it wasn't anything so sinister and was most likely sinusitis. Of course the patient didn't believe him because Google told him otherwise so he decides to go private and spend close to £500 on tests and private care only to be told you've got a sinusitis infection...


12. Unexpected Turn Of Events

How about a best? Dude comes in after looking up chest pain on WebMD and it tells him he's having a heart attack. He actually was.


11. Even In Los Angeles

Nursing student here. Woman age 55 told me she was impregnated by the holy spirit because her periods went away and she hasn't been with a man in 2 years since her husband died. She wasn't pregnant. But she's never heard of menopause.

They also had us doing flu shots and a girl comes in looking really apprehensive. I asked are you pregnant? She said "Well, my girlfriend fingered me and I'm scared I might be pregnant and I don't want my mom and dad to find out I'm gay." This is why we need proper sex ed.

And after these stories y'all might be thinking. Oh he is somewhere in the south. In Hicksville. Nope. Los Angeles.


10. Granny should read the labels!

I'm not a doctor, but I did take my very elderly Nana to the hospital after I showed up to her house and found her slurring her words and behaving very strange overall. Now, my Nana is a major hypochondriac and when she was admitted the first thing she told the doctor is that she believed she was experiencing the beginning signs of Parkinson's.

It turned out that she had mixed up a bottle of non-alcoholic wine with a bottle of regular wine, had drank the entire bottle, and was completely hammered.


Honestly though the sensation of being drunk would be so disconcerting if you weren't expecting it


Yeah, the symptoms of being drunk are similar to the symptoms of being roofied—that's why people in bars usually don't notice if someone's slipped something into their drink until it's too late. It's super freaky.


9. Come on people...

Serious answer: I try to ask my patients if they have Googled their symptoms. It gives me a lot of information about what they are worried about. I then try to stay humble about their findings, and try to not be a jerk about that. Trust is not built by telling people they are stupid. However, it is hard to keep a straight face when a 50-year old male walks in and says "I think I have caught the Down's syndrome," or when a young women thought she had testicular cancer.


I actually had pretty advanced serum sickness from strep/penicillin and the nurses told me I was not having any problems. The doc in the ER said he didnt know what it was but looked it up himself and said, "yup! You do have serum sickness!"

It felt nice to be listened to.


However, it is hard to keep a straight face when a 50-year old male walks in and says "I think I have caught the Down's syndrome", or when a young women thought she had testicular cancer.

This totally reminds me of something that would happen on House, like this lady and her inhaler.


8. That's... not how it works.

The other day I had a guy come into the ED in tears because he had wrist pain and the nurse at his work's occupational health looked it up and told him he has multiple sclerosis.


I love good nurses but there's areas that they are not trained in. We did an appendectomy on a patient who was like, maybe 4 weeks pregnant. After the surgery the nurse called me saying she couldn't hear the fetus's heart anymore...after telling the patient that maybe she had a miscarriage during the surgery.

Turns out the nurse used a Doppler preop and mistook the Iliac artery for the fetal heart rate...and then couldn't find the artery post op.

Several levels of wtf in that one.

Edit: you cannot hear a fetal heart at 4wks with...anything, ever.


7. So close.

This will make my friend sound stupid, and she really isn't. When she had her first baby and was in that woozy/sleepless/new mom phase, she took the baby for her checkup and completely misheard when the doctor told her the baby had eczema. She got home and started Googling what she thought he had said, and called me in a panic, saying, "The doctor said the baby has emphysema!"

Why, that infant never smoked a day in her life . . .


This reminds me of when I was getting married and my husband and I were looking for a hotel to stay at on our wedding night. He called me and said he found one that had a honeymoon suite and included in the package was "strawberries and shampoo." We still laugh, almost 30 years later, at the thought of toasting our new marriage with shampoo and not champagne.


6. Some things should be obvious...

In this day and age of the internet, I'm still surprised people don't use web MD more....

Just this week I was in our workroom when a senior physician sitting next to be was on the phone and suddenly grabbed my arm while desperately trying to keep a straight face. The senior physician was talking to a 24-year-old female patient and the conversation was going:

"No Ma'am... You can get absolutely get pregnant even if you don't orgasm... No Ma'am, just because he's feeling nauseated the morning after doesn't mean you're pregnant..."

I mean the Web MD page on this is pretty darn good....


just because he's feeling nauseated the morning after



It's actually horrifying how little humans know about our own bodies.


Especially since everything can be found on the internet. At 24 there is no excuse for not being able to Google.


There's also a LOT of misinformation on the internet, particularly when it comes to health. A big reason that there are so many pseudoscientific health movements today is because bullshit health blogs are often the first thing to come up when you type things into google. Not only that, but "real" science is often inaccessible to those outside of the field, and behind journal paywalls.

Source: am med student, used to google things when I forgot stuff, led myself into way too many rabbit holes and now I just use UpToDate (~legit WebMD). If an article doesn't credit any sources, smash that back button.


5. Yes, by all means, breathe water.

RN, but my favorite was when a patients family member rudely insisted we give her mother who had a major stroke (resulting in nearly zero swallowing capability) as much water as she could drink because "I read a study online that said you can't aspirate on water because your lungs just absorb it back into your bloodstream." I looked her dead in the eyes and said "Ok, then explain drowning to me."


Oh gosh. Save us from the daughters that read stuff online.

I did home health care and took care of a lovely lady in her nineties. She had very bad diabetes, and even though she was constantly monitored and checking in with her doc multiple times a week, it still was not unusual for her to run between 250-300 after dinner, a carefully measured and balanced dinner. It freaked me out every time I saw it.

Anyway, her daughter kept telling my about this juice cleanse she heard about. I kept telling her that it was a really, really bad idea, but she kept bringing it up because her chiropractor talked about it all the time.

I went on vacation for a week, came back and my lady is gone. Hospitalized. You guessed it, as soon as I was out the door her daughter started the juice cleanse. She was going to prove me wrong. Amazingly, this little tiny 97 yo lady managed to do well enough for 3 days. 3 days until the evening nurse clocked her blood sugar at over 700!!!

The EMTs couldn't believe it. She was groggy and nauseated, but still conscious and her sweet self.

She was in the hospital for over 2 weeks because they just couldn't get her sugars to balance.

She came home, but had even more problems than before. Her daughter wouldn't even look at me. She nearly killed her mom to prove herself right.


The icing on the cake, a week after she went home, she gets admitted to the ICU guessed it...aspiration pneumonia caused by the daughter trying to feed her solid foods.


4. People should at least know what parts they have.

I had a woman come to see me because of abdominal pain. I spent a good 10-15 minutes of asking her questions to get a better understanding of what could be happening. I ended up ordering an ultrasound to assess for an ovarian cysts and some blood work. As she's leaving she goes "are you doing lab work for my prostate?" I had to bite my tongue so as not to laugh and said "no, because you're not a male and you don't have one." She just said "oh." and left.

Spoiler alert - she had an ovarian cyst.


Our family doctor once asked my husband if he was pregnant as she went down a checklist. They had a good laugh.


I once told a woman she didn't have a prostate (when asking about the result of an ultrasound) and she was just appalled, I blame myself for a string of misscomunication that was like: Lady: so dr how is my ultrasound? Me (writting down the report on the note, totally distracted): oh it is fine, normal Lady: so everything is normal, even my prostate? Me (again suuper distracted): Oh, yes, you don't have a prostate Lady (freakout) WHAT? Why? Is that the reason for my pain? Me: no, you just never had one Lady: What? Wtf? It can't be Me: believe me you've never had one Lady: Oh really?? then, how am I still alive if I do not have one? Me (now full attention on this trying not to laugh): Excuse me ma'am, that is an all male organ, you don't need one to live, it produces fluid for the sperm Lady: Oh.


3. We have doctors for a reason.

Librarian here. Before Web MD/Dr. Google was (is) a medical textbook called 'The Merck Manual'. While intended for medical students/Doctors, it quickly fell into the hands of decades of self-diagnosers. I once heard it described as "Hypochondriac's handbook since 1899"

Still being published in print and available for free at


Keep in mind that this is a publication by a pharmaceutical company that profits from the sale of pharmaceuticals. I'm not saying it's not valuable, nor am I implying that there is anything unethical in pharmaceutical companies benefitting from more accurate diagnoses, but a self-service manual like this cannot and should not replace a medical professional's unbiased opinion. Check with your GP before you use even over-the-counter treatments.


2. They aren't remotely the same thing.

Sad and long story but to keep it very brief. Lady on 4 vasopressors including high dose epinephrine, was gonna die in the next few hours. Husband was convinced that epinephrine was causing the low bloodpressure and low heart rate. He kept going back and fourth from home to the hospital with online printouts despite myself, my fellow, and my attending, and the nurses all telling him that this medication is keeping her alive. We looked at his first printout, it said, "ephedrine" we're like uhhh first of all, thats not the same medication. Anyways, I actually tell him that if I was him, I'd stay with her and that she may only have minutes left. He's threatening to sue us and he's convinced he's right, he goes home again to get a new print out, and she ends up dying while he's at home.


1. WTAF.

I'm an RN in pediatric neurology. We frequently have families who refuse to put their kids on seizure medications regardless of the EEG findings and the fact that they, you know, have seizures and stuff.

One family "did the research" and attempted to cure the child's epilepsy with essential oils, over the counter CBD oil, yoga, metal ion wristbands (to "balance" the brain). They even went as far as having the kid's dental fillings removed and replaced with a non-metallic filling.

There was the time that someone told us she didn't need medication because if you opened a fizzy can of Pepsi and put it under her nose she would come out of a seizure. If that didn't work, you could whisper "Reese's Pieces" in her ear and she would stop seizing.

My least favorite visits are from parents who refuse to believe that their kid is twitching because they have motor tics and likely Tourette's instead of epilepsy. Like, if it was a choice between Tourette's and epilepsy, you should choose Tourette's all day long. Why these parents are hell bent on giving their kids a diagnosis of epilepsy is beyond me.

I just don't even know anymore.


Why these parents are hell bent on giving their kids a diagnosis of epilepsy is beyond me.

I'm thinking there's still a big stigma against Tourettes, while most lay people don't realize how bad epilepsy really is.


There really is, my mother has a form of epilepsy and her seizures make her weak for a day or two. Not to mention if gone unchecked it can have serious impacts on the brain. Tourettes though, which my cousin has, comes in many forms and doesn't harm the person. Learning to cope with tics is much easier and less jarring compared to epilepsy.


There was the time that someone told us she didn't need medication because if you opened a fizzy can of Pepsi and put it under her nose she would come out of a seizure. If that didn't work, you could whisper "Reese's Pieces" in her ear and she would stop seizing.



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