Kim Norton explains why crowd-sourcing medical advice is a bad idea..
Many parents are part of Facebook parenting groups, some general, some with a specific focus. One thing that is common to all is the number of mothers asking serious medical questions.
Many of the situations these mothers post require urgent medical attention and most responses make it clear that baby should be taken to hospital or a paediatrician without delay. Some are more minor and a GP visit or home treatment with over the counter medicines or non medical treatment suffices. Most of these questions would be answered by mothers doing a level one first aid course too.
What is worrying though is the number of responses these mothers get telling them not to worry, or that happened to a friend and baby was fine, or to use some dangerous home remedy or “boereraat” or an unproven alternative treatment that could be harmful. If anyone challenges those who give this advice an all out war begins.
Should anyone dare to point out that asking for medical advice on a Facebook group is akin to standing on the street corner shouting “my baby’s fontanelle is bulging, he’s vomiting and his temperature is 41 what should I do?” – most people know it is serious and possibly meningitis and would tell you to get to hospital, but unfortunately someone in their tin foil hat will also appear and suggest surrounding the baby with sunshine, love, crystals and colloidal silver, or whatever this month’s fad cure for everything that could ever go wrong is. On the street we can usually spot the tin foil hat, online this person might not have it on show, and their comment is seen without interruption. On the street the crowd would tell them to shut up and they’d slink off. Online, they argue back vociferously and with scientific sounding facts and links to bogus websites which have a scientific sheen to them making them difficult to spot for peddling the dangerous nonsense they do (think Natural News and Mercola).
No support structure
Unfortunately these mothers who ask these questions get upset when anyone suggests they stop asking strangers and go to hospital or see a medical professional, and with hackles up snarl that they don’t have a family support structure to ask. Well, I have no family nearby either but those I know do still take their baby or child to the hospital or paediatrician if they are sick, as do I.
Ask the professionals
A Facebook group of people with no medical qualifications is not the place to ask for help for your sick child.
Yes, many non medical treatments are quite safe and fine and form part of the recommendations of main stream medicine, such as general good health by eating well and excercising, basic hygiene, salt water gargles for a mild sore throat, saline spray for a runny nose and so on. However, if your baby is very sick, these will not help, and those remedies proven as dangerous but which get spouted on line so frequently will harm.
If your child is seriously ill, seek proper medical care.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Have you seen someone receive dangerous pseudo-medical advice online?