A Whiskey A Day Keeps The Doctor Away: The Medical Misconceptions Affecting Your Patients’ Health
By Sarah Mayer

In advance of a day of pranks and misdirection, InCrowd reports on the most pervasive medical myths and misleading health directives that circulate the patient community. Recently, our microsurvey tool reached 200 healthcare professionals–99 physicians and 101 nurses–to get their anecdotes and feedback.

Much of this misinformation, as with any April Fools’ joke, is relatively harmless:

  • “Smelling an onion will help make you skinny and clear your complexion.”
  • “Taping a silver dollar over a newborn’s umbilicus will prevent it from sticking out.”
  • “Stand on your head to ward off a headache.”
  • “Many think Anesthesiologists aren’t doctors.”

These types of healthcare fallacies are infrequent and are typically specific to the patient’s experience.  Other reported inaccuracies can be more sinister.

There is a wide range of preventative health fallacies that practitioners hear all the time:

  • “Vaccines are a hoax and don’t prevent disease. They are just an experiment of the medical community.”
  • “You can’t get sick if you’re already sick. (you can’t develop a UTI if you already have the flu).”
  • “Starting insulin will cause kidney failure and amputations.”
  • “Pregnant women are not allowed to put their hands and arms over their heads. This will make the umbilical cord wrap around the baby’s neck.”

Reports also stated that patients frequently repeat unreliable recommendations for treating and negotiating health conditions:

  • “I have had several patients think a cardiac pacemaker will keep them alive indefinitely.”
  • “Putting an onion in a baby’s sock will draw the fever out.”
  • “Type 2 diabetes patient states ‘I don’t take any meds cause I don’t eat sugar or desserts with sugar. So my diabetes is gone.’”

All humor aside, the most frequently expressed misconceptions revolve around significant medical issues such as diabetes, vaccinations, influenza and pregnancy. For patients to exhibit their healthiest outcomes, we must work to correct this lack of clear guidance. Thorough education the health care community will empower patients to protect and understand their own health and make the healthcare decisions that are right for them. If we can prevent even one patient from putting cayenne pepper in his open wound, or get one more child’s vaccinations up to date, these conversations are worthwhile.


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