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10 top-trending health questions you had for Dr. Google in 2023

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

(CNN) — This year, Google users in the United States wanted to know more about strep throat, how to lower cholesterol and what helps with bloating.

Those were just some of the top-trending health-related questions searched on Google in the United States from January 1 to November 27, according to the technology company.

“The data reflects top trending searches, which means the ‘trending’ queries are the searches that had a high spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2023 as compared to 2022,” Google spokesperson Sarah Armstrong said in an email.

Here are the 10 top-trending health questions that had people Googling in 2023, and some of their answers.

1. How long is strep contagious?

Strep infections in the United States surged in early 2023, leaving many people with questions about how contagious the illness is and for how long.

In February, the share of health care visits for strep throat or a related diagnosis was nearly 30% higher than during the previous peak in 2017.

Although viruses cause most sore throats, strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria – and these bacteria are very contagious.

People treating strep throat with antibiotics become less contagious over 24 to 48 hours, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, but a person with untreated strep can infect others for about two or even three weeks.

Symptoms of strep throat can include fever, pain when swallowing, red and swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes. According to the CDC, less-common symptoms may include vomiting and headache – but not a cough or a runny nose.

2. How contagious is strep throat?

Typically, an infected person can spread the bacteria to others through their respiratory droplets when talking, coughing or sneezing, or through direct contact, such as if someone touches sores on the skin caused by the bacteria, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It usually takes two to five days for someone who has been exposed to group A strep bacteria to become ill with strep throat.

Strep throat is more common in children, as up to 3 in 10 children with a sore throat have strep throat, according to the CDC, compared with about 1 in 10 adults with a sore throat.

3. How to lower cholesterol

A growing body of research suggests that consuming a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet can help lower cholesterol.

One study, published in the European Heart Journal in May, found that in adults following a plant-based diet, levels of LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – often called “bad” cholesterol – dropped 10% and total cholesterol declined 7% compared with adults who eat both meat and plants.

People can lower or control their cholesterol by limiting the amount of saturated and trans fats they eat. Saturated fats are found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, and trans fats are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – such as salmon and flaxseeds – have heart-healthy benefits, and soluble fiber – found in foods like oatmeal, apples and Brussels sprouts – can help reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.

Exercising regularly, not smoking, losing weight and not drinking too much alcohol all can be helpful in improving cholesterol levels.

4. What helps with bloating?

There are several common causes of abdominal bloating, including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, overeating and even certain medications – but there are some steps people can take to help care for bloating at home.

According to the National Library of Medicine, it may help to avoid chewing gum and carbonated drinks, as well as foods that can produce gas, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans and lentils. Stopping smoking and not eating too quickly also can help.

Fiber supplements, such as psyllium or 100% bran, may make symptoms worse, but certain medicines like simethicone can be helpful.

Contact a medical professional if, along with bloating, you have abdominal pain, blood in the stool, diarrhea, worsening heartburn, vomiting or weight loss.

5. What causes low blood pressure?

When blood pressure dips too low – to a reading of less than 90/60 mm Hg – the condition is called hypotension.

According to the American Heart Association, low blood pressure can occur with prolonged bed rest, depression, Parkinson’s disease or pregnancy.

When someone loses large amounts of blood, that can cause low blood pressure, as well as certain medications, including diuretics, beta blockers and tricyclic antidepressants.

Chronically low blood pressure may lead to symptoms such as dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, fainting, fatigue, headache, blurred vision and heart palpitations.

6. What causes warts?

Most common warts on the skin are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, a group of more than 150 viruses, and it can spread through various ways.

Most forms of the virus are spread through skin-to-skin contact or shared objects, such as towels or washcloths, according to Mayo Clinic. The virus usually spreads through breaks in the skin, and although warts most commonly appear on the hands, they can also affect the feet, face, genitals and knees.

7. Why do I feel nauseous?

While pregnancy or the stomach flu are some common causes of feeling nauseated, chronic nausea also can be a symptom of disorders related to the digestive system, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or peptic ulcer disease.

Some people may have an increased risk of nausea due to certain medications or treatments they may be taking, such as cancer patients who are undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Pregnant people also are at an increased risk of feeling nauseated during their first trimester, which is commonly referred to as “morning sickness.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers estimate that about 50% to 90% of pregnant people have nausea, while 25% to 55% have vomiting.

8. What causes preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia — which can lead to eclampsia when someone with preeclampsia has seizures — is a condition that causes high blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth.

Globally, between 10% and 15% of deaths due to pregnancy or childbirth are caused by preeclampsia and associated complications, such as eclampsia.

In the United States, preeclampsia affects between 5% and 8% of pregnancies, according to the maternal and infant health nonprofit March of Dimes, and in most cases, it leads to preterm birth.

Yet the exact causes of preeclampsia remain unknown. People can be at higher risk of preeclampsia if they had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, are pregnant with twins or triplets or more, or already have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or an autoimmune disease like lupus or antiphospholipid syndrome.

9. How to stop snoring

Lifestyle changes may help treat snoring, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, treating nasal congestion, getting enough sleep and not sleeping on your back, according to Mayo Clinic.

Some studies also show that sleeping at an incline has the potential to reduce snoring.

Sometimes, wearing a nasal strip or an oral appliance during sleep can help lower the chances of snoring. In severe cases, health care providers may recommend surgery to treat severe snoring.

Snoring often can be a sign of a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to pause breathing during sleep.

10. How long does food poisoning last?

Often, food poisoning may last about a day or two, but depending on the germ causing the sickness, it could last 10 days or more, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Food poisoning is caused by consuming certain germs, such as Salmonella or E. coli. Symptoms can range from mild to serious, according to the CDC.

The most common symptoms of food poisoning are diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea and fever. See a doctor for any symptoms that are severe, including bloody diarrhea, diarrhea that lasts more than three days, a high fever of more than 102 degrees, vomiting so much that liquids can’t be kept down, and signs of dehydration.

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