28/09/2015 12:24 BST | Updated 28/09/2016 06:12 BST

Beware of Dr. Google

A new survey [1] has revealed that we're almost as likely to use search engines - to access health advice, as we are to visit our GP.

As we're living in the 'Digital Age', with thousands of pieces of information at our fingertips no matter where we are, I suppose it's not surprising that almost one in three of us would type our symptoms into that familiar search bar. But as a GP this concerns me.

The survey, carried out by the Natural Hydration Council, also found that as well as using search engines like Google, 30 per cent of us go directly to health websites for information, and the same amount of people ask family and friends for advice. Almost one in ten even admitted to asking work colleagues for health advice.

Whether it's recommendations on what to eat and drink, or what illnesses we might have, what worries me is that if a third of us are relying on search engines and websites for health advice, that's a third of us that could be accessing, believing in and taking action on incorrect or ill fitting (excuse the pun) health information.

Yes the internet can provide us with answers in seconds, but the issues we're asking about could be fairly complex. One size doesn't fit all - especially when it comes to our health and wellbeing.

Please don't get me wrong, there is a lot of credible information on the internet, but I would suggest that this is used as a guide rather than a reliable piece of medical or health advice. There is also a need to watch out for websites providing advice or information without any evidence or expertise to support it.

For example, as well as looking at where you get your health information from, the Natural Hydration Council's survey also looked at some of the myths around water that people believe in. The internet is not short of incorrect information about drinking water - this is an even greater concern when we know from a survey [2], conducted earlier this year with GPs, that one in ten consultations for tiredness and fatigue are thought to be down to dehydration. Despite that 60 per cent of us drink one glass or less of water a day [3].

Official NHS guidance suggests each day adults should drink 8-10 200ml glasses of fluid and children 6-8 glasses. All fluid counts towards this target, including fluid found in foods, but water is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate as it contains no calories or sugar. [4] It doesn't matter if it's tap, still or sparkling, it's all equally hydrating. But one in twenty incorrectly believe that sparkling water contains calories, while eight per cent of people erroneously believe sparkling water contains sugar. Could these incorrect beliefs be putting many of us off a healthy alternative to other fizzy drinks?

In addition, one fifth of people even believe drinking water from a bottle that has been left in the sun or a hot car can cause cancer - something Cancer Research UK debunks on their website [5] where the charity states: "there is no convincing scientific evidence to back up these claims or to suggest that any of these products could cause cancer."

So what would my advice be? If you have any serious health concerns, then please go and see your GP. And if you are looking for health advice and information on the Internet, make sure you check the credibility of the site before taking the content of it seriously. For example, always check:

Is the information coming from an official NHS Source?

Is the person offering advice on that site a medical professional?

If it's not, it's best to take it with a pinch of salt.

Find out more about the benefits of drinking water and how to hydrate healthily at naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk

[1] - Survey carried out by One Poll, between 27th March and 31st March. Respondents could select more than one response.

[2] - Survey run by PCP Market Research, conducted with 300 GPs via an online survey between 4th March and 12th March 2015. Sample sizes in the regions range from 10 - 41 GPs.

[3] - Zenith International, UK Bottled Water Report, April 2014

[4] - http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/water-drinks.aspx

[5] - Cancer Research UK - http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/plastic-bottles-and-cling-film?a=5411