Less than half of YouTube videos on allergic rhinitis provide useful information, study finds

Want to build a spice rack for your kitchen? Pull up a YouTube video to see how it could be done. Do you have allergic rhinitis (hay fever) symptoms that just won’t stop? Don’t do a random search on YouTube, because the information you find there is likely to be inaccurate. A new study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunologythe scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), showed that misleading content generates more user interactions in terms of likes and comments than videos with useful content.

According to research, 70% of patients with a chronic disease are influenced by the information they get from online sources, and a quarter of internet users have watched a video online about a health or medical issue. Our study found that YouTube users may be unable to distinguish science-based information from misinformation. In reviewing YouTube videos on the subject of allergic rhinitis, we found that less than half of the videos provided useful information.”

Celine Lund-Nielsen Remvig, BSc, lead study author

The study authors analyzed 86 YouTube videos: 33 for “allergic rhinitis”, 31 for “hay fever” and 22 for “allergy”. The content was classified as useful (conveying scientifically correct information), misleading (conveying at least one scientifically unproven detail), or neither useful nor misleading (not misleading, but does not provide useful information on epidemiology, symptoms or diagnosis). Only 17.5% of the videos were uploaded by a specialist, doctor or healthcare professional, while 39.5% were uploaded from a TV show or YouTube channel.

“If our patients go online to find information about their allergies, we want the information they find to be reliable,” says allergist David Stukus, MD, associate editor of Annals. Dr. Stukus was not involved in the research. “This study found that medical/health associations tend to be the most trusted source of information, while TV shows and YouTube channels are responsible for the most misleading videos. All videos uploaded by associations were rated as helpful, while only 32% of videos uploaded by TV shows/YouTube channels were rated as helpful.”

Shirley K. Rosa