Skepchick Quickies 5.4


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. the first one is a great article. time to stop believing everything your doctor tells you is gospel. however, that does make health issues a little more complicated for those who are too lazy/not resourceful enough to determine the truth for themselves. and if the experts (physicians) aren’t the experts, who are? but, then again, look at the bomb detectors the military “experts” had in place. i think this is just a good reminder that science educated does not equal skeptic educated.

  2. I would be interested to know the age range of the pediatricians who did believe the health myths. Most of the ones listed sound so quaint and outdated. Like, an ice bath to treat a fever? For real? I’ve never even heard of that one, but it is so obviously incorrect that I would instantly question a practicioner who did say that. But it does sound like something that might have been “true” a few generations ago before truly effective treatments came along.

  3. @hotphysicsboy:

    who are too lazy/not resourceful enough

    I don’t think it’s just about that. I am not knowledgable enough to really feel comfortable making medical decisions about myself (or a child if I were to have one). I do as much research as I can, but in the end, my knowledge is limited, and I have to trust my doctor(s) to do the rest. (For instance, I’m going through some medical stuff right now and my research has helped move things along, but I still trust my doctor to diagnose and give me the proper information on treatment.) And not everyone is mentally able to process complicated medical information on their own to begin with. Also, not everyone has internet access at their fingertips. That doesn’t mean they are lazy, non-resourceful, or stupid.

    So … what do you suggest for those who can’t, for whatever reason, do the research on their own? You and I, we are lucky. Not everyone is. And it kind of sucks. The only real option they have is getting second and even third opinions, but that takes money and time, and not everyone has health insurance and most can hardly afford to get a first opinion…

    Doctors really need to work on not being ignorant.

  4. The sugar myth is especially pervasive… just take a look at the comments on that article! I remember hearing about one of the studies that debunked this: they gave one group of kids sugary cookies or candy and another group sugar free cookies or candy and then told half of the parents that the food was sugary and half that it was not, resulting in 4 groups. The parents who were told their kids had had sugary foods said their kids were hyperactive, even if their kid were in the sugar substitute group. The other parents said their kids were not hyperactive, even if they had had sugar. It’s all confirmation bias.

    One of the commenters also says there’s something about 4-6pm either way, though. Anyone know anything about that? Are kids often hyperactive at that time?

  5. @marilove: i think what i meant by “not resourceful enough” covered a little broader spectrum than you interpreted. what i meant by that was also including people who have no other expert(s) than their doctor, people who don’t have the time to read the newest science literature to keep current with new studies (not unlike their physician, for instance, it would seem), and, like you stated, “everyone [who] has [no] internet access at their fingertips”, as well as many others.

    are there people who don’t care enough about their health to spend a little extra time reading about new health studies and findings? yep. are there people who are too uneducated to figure out who they should really listen to because they simply don’t understand the scientific method well enough? yep. do i trust myself to be more informed than a doctor who spends his life treating and diagnosing illness? not usually. but when a physician tells me that even though i am not lacking in any specific nutrients that a multi-vitamin would do me good i feel pretty comfortable rolling my eyes at them and ignoring that advice. when they tell me that acupuncture could really supplement my treatment i roll my eyes and ignore as well.

    there are many treatments that have been debunked for years, sometimes decades, that most affluent (or even not so much) Americans who have half a brain should know are bunk. we are usually right and smart to just ignore these suggestions just as i ignore Ms. Cleo requesting me to ‘call her now for my free readin’.

    for those people who do not have any reliable knowledge based on scientific evidence that contradicts what their doctor is telling them, their best bet is to do what their doctor says. like i would. which means that sometimes they will get the wrong advice (as this article seems to suggest). hence the crux of my argument. doctors need to work on being skeptical and staying current with the research that effects their work. however, i understand that most of them are overworked and understaffed. in my mind, that’s no excuse for recommending acupuncture, but there are others that are going to be less obvious and slip through the cracks.

    i think it is important to remember that expert in field does not equate to always right about things in their field. doctors will be wrong, on occasion, even when they do follow the evidence properly. i agree, we are lucky to have second and third opinions, as well as other reasons. however, i, personally, am not too lucky, as i don’t have health care at all so i don’t even have a doctor to disagree with!

  6. @marilove: you got that right! i meant it more literally, as in, they do not have the technological or mental faculty resources to examine evidence for themselves. i figured the not trying was covered well enough in the “lazy” department lol :)

  7. @hotphysicsboy: I guess “don’t have the proper resources available” would be better, but it doesn’t matter … it still stinks that doctors are ignorant on subjects they shouldn’t be ignorant about. Blah. I’m glad I have a good doctor. AND health insurance. Let me tell ya.

  8. As someone suffering from Crohn’s disease and plagued with other little health problems, that article about the woman who got fired after undergoing genetic testing has me worried a lot about the future. :-(

    I’ve refused to go to a job interview that required health examination by a doctor prior to employment once. I’m not going to let a big corporation stick it’s nose in my health history just for a job watering their indoor plants thankyouverymuch!

  9. @k-rex: Back in the olden days [late 60s], I worked in a hospital. When kids came in running extreme temperatures – e.g. 105, 106 – they were plunged into ice water baths immediately, whilst simultaneously being given antipyretic medication. However, they were monitored very carefully and seldom kept in the ice bath for more than a few minutes. I can see where a careless doctor might mistake that ER practice in exigent circumstances for something to be used routinely.

    Fortunately, my Offspring had two really good paediatricians, both of whom were well versed in the idiosyncrasies of Asian babies.

  10. @hotphysicsboy: we are usually right and smart to just ignore these suggestions just as i ignore Ms. Cleo requesting me to ‘call her now for my free readin’.

    I once opined that, if Miss Cleo were, in fact, psychic, she’d call me.

    Then one day my phone rang, and a tape began to play telling me that Miss Cleo was concerned about me and I should call her right away

  11. K rex has a point, but it’s not neccessarily the age of the physician that can be an issue, but rather the vigilance of the physician; he/she must keep up with the literature – we are not perfect, but we should always know what we DO know, what we do NOT know, and what we need to research for the best answer.

    That said, item number one, ice for burns , is not a myth if the burn is witnessed and immediate. Timing is the key.

    Treatment of Minor Burns

    Minor burns are the most frequent kind of burn that you will see. They are not very difficult to treat. Minor burns will get better on their own, with time. Complicated dressings are not necessary. Antibiotics are also not necessary. The most important thing to do is make the patient comfortable and keep the wound clean.

    Although this hurts we advise you to remove all blisters and devitalized tissue. If left in place there is an increased potential for wound infection because the fluid which collects within a blister and the devitalized tissue creates a culture medium in which bacteria can thrive.

    We like to apply nonadhearant gauze, simply because it is more comfortably for the patient. The purpose of applying ointment is twofold. First it makes the patient more comfortable and second it requires washing of the wound to remove the old intment. Washing is the most important thing you can do in the treatment of a minor burn.

    Ace wraps are not necessary but they may increase comfort, especially for burns of the lower extremities.

    If you have a burned foot, you must walk on it. This is very important. If you don’t walk, your foot will swell. The more it swells the more likely it is to get infected, the more likely it is going to hurt and it will take longer to heal. Do not use crutches, do not use a wheel chair. It will hurt to walk, but in the long run it will hurt much more if you don’t walk on these wounds.

    Wound Care:

    •Clean the wound with bland soap and water.
    •Remove all devitalized tissue.
    •Remove all blisters.
    •Shave hair adjacent to the wound.
    •Apply a bland ointment.
    •Leave the wound open or wrap lightly with gauze.
    •Repeat the cleansing process and application of ointment twice daily.
    Do’s and Don’ts:

    •Do not soak the wound in ice water.
    •Do not wrap in an occlusive dressing.
    •Do encourage active range of motion.
    •The most important “Don’t” is: Do not soak the wound in ice water. If you burn yourself or witness a burn injury and immediately immerse the wound in ice water, the burn will be less extensive and not as deep, BUT, if you wait just 15 seconds and immerse the wound, there will be no beneficial effect from the ice water. The potential for extending the damage, caused by a frostbite injury over a burn injury, is great

  12. I think the sugar and hyperactivity myth is an absolutely perfect example of why good studies need to be double-blind. So many people just don’t get it that their expectations (and resulting behavior) can influence the results. They just don’t realize that kids can pick up on clues and actually respond to them.

    Anyway, I wonder how many doctors believe in multiple myths. I think it’s likely that there is significant overlap with those results, so maybe the medical community overall isn’t so bad. And even if a doctor does incorrectly believe in one or two things, I don’t think that’s a sign that they’re a bad doctor. They’re just people and therefore not perfect.

  13. I’ve heard that there are correlations between increased sugar intake and increased diagnoses of psychiatric as well as behavioral problems

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