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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nonsense that Everyone Believes

Here are myths that most laymen take for granted. A more serious problem is that many doctors also believe them. 

1.  If it hurts, it needs an x-ray.
Excellent for detecting fractures, X-rays are surprisingly unhelpful in other painful conditions.  Almost everyone suffering an excruciating headache, backache, bellyache, or hacking cough wants to know what’s going on inside, and they assume that, like Superman’s X-ray vision, a film reveals this, but it doesn’t.

2.  If your sputum turns green you need an antibiotic.
Your respiratory tract produces a quart of mucus every day.  When irritated, it produces more and the sputum may turn yellow, green, or brown. In an otherwise healthy person, this has no significance.

3. If one medicine isn’t working, you need a better medicine.
Understandable in a layperson but doctors should know better. In medical school, students are drilled in the rule:  if a drug isn’t working, switching is almost never the solution. Find out why the patient isn’t improving. It’s more likely that the diagnosis is wrong.

4.  Spicy food irritates your stomach.  Fats are hard to digest.  Tasteless and colorless (i.e. bland) food is soothing.
All proven false by good studies. 

5. High blood pressure causes headaches or dizziness.
Ordinary high blood pressure causes no symptoms.

6. Bronchitis requires an antibiotic.
“Bronchitis” is almost always a viral infection; antibiotics don’t work.

7. Injections work faster than pills.
Sometimes, sometimes, not.  Doctors can charge for an injection. If they write a prescription, the pharmacist gets the money.

***Another warning. It looks like this blog will vanish on January 15 when my Medscape E-mail service goes out of business. Appeals to Google Help have proved fruitless. I plan to start another, and it will probably have the same name The Hotel Doctor. Keep your eyes peeled. ***

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