Google Trends is an emerging tool that allows users to analyze search queries, showing when certain topics are searched most often. Multiple studies have compared Google Trends to epidemiological data of health conditions, but pediatric specific illnesses have not yet been investigated. An association between disease incidence and Google Trends data may help facilitate precision outreach in the form of digital resources and promotion. We sought to examine the relationship between Google Trends data and measured incidence of bronchiolitis and croup.
We carried out a Google Trends search using the terms “bronchiolitis” and “croup” on July 24, 2019. The number of positive respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza tests published by the Public Health Agency of Canada was used to estimate incidence of bronchiolitis and croup, respectively. Emergency department discharge data were used to measure the number of patients with bronchiolitis and croup presenting to a Canadian pediatric hospital. Data from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2018, were used for analysis.
Google Trends revealed clear seasonal variation in search volume for both bronchiolitis and croup in keeping with known epidemiological data for these conditions. For data on bronchiolitis, Google Trends correlated strongly with Canadian Public Health and our hospital data. A positive correlation was also found with croup.
Google Trends correlates with both laboratory-based and hospital incidence of respiratory viral diagnoses. This novel data source has implications for tracking disease epidemiology, tailoring health information, and providing precision outreach tools to patients and their families.