Common Misconceptions About Healthcare


Our understanding of health and healthcare has come a long way from the old days, when the most common treatment for most medical problems was just ‘not worrying about it’. Thanks to the medical advancements of the past few centuries, the average person now knows much more about healthcare than any other time in history.

Not all of that knowledge, however, is accurate. As science and technology improve our understanding of our own bodies faster than we can keep up, some of the old misconceptions refuse to die out. 

10. Burn The Wound

Some of the most persistent myths about healthcare come from movies. Of course, they’re movies and hence supposed to be fictionalized versions of reality, though these misconceptions cause real problems, like during emergency medical situations.

One of them is the notion that in case there’s no hospital nearby, a bleeding wound should be treated by burning it in some way, usually with an iron rod. You’d see it repeated in war movies, medieval fantasies, hospital dramas and many other types of movies, leading so many of us to believe that it’s the best way to bring a serious wound under control.

While burning is actually a legit technique to treat some kind of wounds, it’s usually done by surgeons and higher-level doctors, with delicate instruments and on a much smaller scale. Looking for a large, burning piece of iron to, say, plug an arrow or bullet wound isn’t just unnecessarily overdramatic, but would also make things much worse for the victim. While it’d no doubt stop the bleeding and sterilize the immediate region, it’d create an additional injury; a burn. That could be infected with other, possibly more harmful bacteria and fungi from the air, as burns are highly susceptible to infections. 

The best way to deal with a wound in the absence of a qualified professional is wrapping it in cloth and applying pressure.

9. CPR Works Almost Every Time

CPR is widely thought to be a magic cure for someone passing out for any reason. It shows up quite often in movies, too – someone collapses in the middle of a flight, flight attendant desperately asks if someone knows CPR, someone gets up, claims ‘I do’, and effortlessly resuscitates them back to life.

In reality, CPR almost never works in isolation, as it’s meant to be administered with other techniques. On its own, CPR only works 2% of the time, which is nowhere close to its near-100% success rate shown in movies. Additional studies show the success rate a little higher, but still coming in at only about 10% – still far below what people commonly believe to be the case.

That doesn’t mean it’s useless. While CPR usually doesn’t work on its own and without a specialist, if administered in combination with hospital care, EMS care, supplemental oxygen, etc., it can raise the survival rate to 40%. 

8. You Can Catch An Infection From A Public Toilet

A lot of us avoid using public toilets for the fear of catching unknown diseases, like STDs. It makes evolutionary and hygienic sense, as we’re programmed to avoid places that could harbour harmful pathogens, and public loos certainly qualify.

While it’s true that some public toilets really shouldn’t be used by anyone, the chances of contracting a disease from even the worst of them is – scientifically speaking – very low. Most pathogens we know of can’t survive long enough on most known surfaces to infect the next person. In the off chance that they did survive, the only way they could cause an infection is directly through the urethral or genital tract, or through an open cut or sore. 

7. Apply Ice To Burn Wounds

Applying ice to relieve a burn wound sounds like an intuitive solution. Burns are caused by something really hot, ice is really cold, so they must cancel each other out. That’s probably why so many of us instinctively reach for the refrigerator whenever we get burned, and not the first-aid box.

In reality, the only correct way to properly treat a burn wound until you get medical help is to run it under cool water for 5 – 10 minutes, wash it with soap and then apply an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory cream to minimize chances of an infection. Ice, on the other hand, could make things much worse, as extremely cold temperatures can have the same effect on the skin as burning. 

6. Water Breaking During Childbirth

Childbirth is one of the most widely-misunderstood medical procedures out there, perhaps because so few of us have actually seen it happen in real life. Almost everything we know about it comes from TV shows and movies, and they almost always get it wrong.

While it’s difficult to include all the popular childbirth myths here, we can talk about the most widespread one – the water-breaking process. Unlike how most of us imagine it, it’s not a convenient, reliable trigger of when to rush to the hospital. In many cases, the woman can’t even feel their water breaking – there have been cases of it happening while sleeping, too. 

Unlike the panicking and rushing to the hospital we see in the movies, in reality, it’s perfectly fine to stay at home for a few hours to make the necessary preparations once it happens, as it usually takes a long time for the contractions to start. It’s not uncommon for the water to break in the middle of the labor phase, either, when you’re likely already in the hospital and under proper medical care.  

5. Expiry Dates

The debate around what the expiry date on a medicine or drug actually means has been going on for a while. Pharmaceutical companies maintain that it’s the maximum amount of time they can guarantee the potency and safety of a drug. Research – anecdotal and scientific – however, proves that expiration dates may not matter much, and almost all drugs remain safe and maintain their potency even years after their expiry dates. 

While it’s entirely possible to monitor a drug and its effects after years of being in the market to update its expiration date, drug companies usually have little incentive to do that. On the other hand, expiration dates ensure continued sales, as most people consider expired medicine to be useless and regularly throw it out. 

4. Reading In Dim Light Can Damage The Eyes

Kids are often asked to avoid reading in low light to keep their eyes healthy, as conventional wisdom says that it could cause long-term damage to the eyes. It sort of makes sense – as reading in dim light should do something to the eyes. If we look at the science behind it, though, it turns out to be one of those old-timey myths about general healthcare that have long been debunked.

While reading in dim light for long hours could definitely cause short-term fatigue, dryness or even a mild headache, none of those are major issues. Your eye doctor would still probably advise you against it – as some of those symptoms may require medicine to fix – though there’s no research to suggest that it could be harmful in the long run in any way.

3. You Can Will Your Disease Away

The idea that you can get better with the power of the mind is widespread. Of course, not everyone who believes that thinks that the willpower of the mind is enough to actually kill viruses and bacteria. Though if combined with medicines and proper healthcare, somewhere deep down, many of us believe that ‘positive thinking’ could help fix our medical problems.

Speaking strictly in scientific terms, though, the notion has no basis in reality. While positive thinking can definitely improve the quality of the time spent with the disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that it does anything to alleviate a medical problem. We’re not talking about the placebo effect here, which is a specific phenomenon that works more like medicine than just willing the disease away. 

2. ‘Eat For Two’ During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are often told to double their diet, as they’ve to now ‘eat for two’. It follows the straightforward logic that now that you have another person inside you, you’d obviously need to eat an extra meal to feed them. 

Obviously, that’s not true, as a baby developing inside the womb isn’t the same as another person. While it depends on a few factors, on an average, expecting moms require only about 300 calories more than usual to produce enough nutrients and food for the baby – equivalent to one slice of whole grain bread and one tablespoon of peanut butter

Moreover, overeating while pregnant can cause additional health problems, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and back-aches.

1. Fish Oil Is Good For The Heart

Fish oil is widely seen as a great supplement to combat heart problems, as it contains something called omega-3 fatty acids that’re supposed to be good for the heart. Research on the subject, however, has been scarce.If one recent study is to be believed, though, fish oil – and omega-3 fatty acids in general – don’t do anything to reduce the risk of cardiac disease, and may actually be harmful for the heart.

Done on about 13,000 subjects, the researchers found that subjects that were given fish oil had the same risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event – most commonly a heart attack – than those given a placebo. Additionally, 67% of everyone that took fish oil experienced atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats.

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