Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and Google will help your self-diagnosis with new symptom search

If some part of your body itches or burns, you’ve probably searched for free medical advice on Google. But an overload of results can have you mistaking an allergic reaction for an STD — or vice versa. Either way, it’s no fun.

Over the next few days Google is rolling out a feature called symptom search, which is designed to show better results on the Google app for iOS or Android. A search that includes a description like "child with knee pain" will return a list of related conditions.

Typing in simple symptoms like "headache" will show a general description of your problem, options for self-treatment, and suggestions on whether or not you should go to see a doctor. Many search results will show you a condition card, which Google launched last February, and these may or may not include illustrations. Other search results will appear as cards that you can swipe on or drop-down menus that you can tap to see more information.

Google says that about 1 percent of its searches are symptom-related, so it wanted to do a better job of sending people useful results. The company created this list of symptoms by turning to its web results to find health conditions, then compared these with the medical information from doctors that it uses for its Knowledge Graph. Google also got help from experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic.

In the future, Google plans on expanding this symptom search from US- and English-only to other countries and languages. The company also hopes to bring this to the desktop browser in the future. course, numerous companies already offer symptom-checking apps, so Google may have a tough time getting some people to switch from long-time habits with WebMD or Symptomate.

By Katherine Boehret for theverge.com