One of the most common things that happens on social media and this blog because I’m so open about my health issues is that I am contacted at least once a week (if not more) by someone with a random treatment option for my arthritis. 99% of the time, this is someone who knows absolutely nothing about my health issues and clearly they know very little about autoimmune arthritis, as well. If you are one of those people who sends messages like that, this is for you. We need to talk about sending medical advice when you are not a medical professional who has examined whoever you’re talking to. Before you send some, ask yourself these four questions.
First of all, how well do you know this person and their health issues? If you don’t know them at all, if you’ve never had a conversation with them, if you only know them from the Internet or you hardly know them, do not suggest any treatment. Especially do not suggest anything if you don’t know their health issue all that well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times someone who only knows the surface of my health issues suggest that I treat a specific treatment. If you are a close friend or family member of the person you’re talking to, or if you have the same health issue, then it might be okay to talk about their health and the treatments they’ve tried. Might be. Everyone is different when it comes to this.
Second, why do you feel the need to send this? Are you trying to sell them something? Stop. Don’t do it. My health problems are not your way to make money or get website traffic. Are you concerned that they’re not doing enough to feel better? Keep your opinions to yourself unless you are a part of the personal conversation about treatment options, which is something that must be initiated by the person with the health issue. You probably only know half of what is going and has gone on in their health journey. For example, when people other than the medical professionals I see suggest medical treatments to me, it is either something I have already tried and hasn’t worked or isn’t something that works for people with my very specific health problems. And that brings up something else – if you are not a medical professional who has examined the individual you’re talking to, you shouldn’t be suggesting treatment options unless they are asked for.Unless you are a medical professional asked for medical advice, you shouldn't send some to random people on the Internet. Click To Tweet
Third, how much do you know about whatever their health issue is? This is a bit trickier because you might think you know a lot when you actually don’t. But let’s break this down, using myself as an example because that’s less confusing than a hypothetical. If I talk about pain from my rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and you want to comment for some reason, ask yourself how much you know about both of these conditions separately. When you see “rheumatoid arthritis,” do you know what that illness is? It’s incredibly different from osteoarthritis, by the way. When you see “fibromyalgia,” do you know what that illness is? If the only part of these two conditions you understand is “arthritis,” do some research before suggesting anything. Also, let’s say that you know a lot about these two conditions – what do you know about my personal health history? Have you read about how I’ve been in pain since fall 2001? Even if you have read all of these different posts about my health, you don’t know every single thing I’ve been through or tried to improve my health because I don’t share everything online. Why would you give medical advice that doesn’t apply? So before you send someone medical advice, ask yourself how much you know about their condition AND their personal health experience. Every patient is different.
Finally, do you understand what message this sends to the person you contacted? Let’s say you’re talking to someone you know – like a friend or coworker – and you ask, “Have you tried [insert random treatment here] to feel better?” In that case, you’re basically saying, “I don’t think you’re trying hard enough to feel better. If you really were, you’d try this treatment that I, a layperson with zero medical education, have suggested.” Because let me tell you something: one of the first things you do when you’re diagnosed is turn to Google to find out everything you can. And if you’re talking to someone who has been diagnosed for years and years, they know more about the treatments out there than you do. Let’s say that you’re talking to a stranger on the Internet and send a message saying, “Have you tried [insert random treatment here]?” Here you’re saying, “I don’t care enough to find out what you’ve tried or what your medical history is. However, if you don’t try what I’ve suggested, then you’re settling for a life of pain/health issues and all future health issues are your own fault.” (Fun fact, someone actually commented a blog post of mine saying that I’m settling for a life of pain because I’m not trying hard enough to get better. To say that I’m still livid over that is an understatement.) Messages and comments from people suggesting random treatments really upset me because, as you can see here, the moral for all of them is pretty much that I’m not trying hard enough to feel better. This is true for conventional medical treatments as well as alternative ones.4 questions to ask yourself before sharing medical advice with people who haven't asked for it Click To Tweet
PS – If you haven’t, check out my post The 8 Things a Millennial with Arthritis Wants You To Know. It might help you understand where I’m coming from in this post.
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10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Received My Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis, Questions Not To Ask Someone with a Chronic Illness, What Abled People Need To Know about Disability, So Someone You Know Was Diagnosed with Inflammatory Arthritis