As someone who often writes on parenting, it’s quite natural that I get invites to Facebook pages dedicated to parenting. I accept them because I do believe that it’s a great way to network with mommies who are also making the same parenthood journey that I am. Contrary to what a lot of cynics might think, I’d say quite a lot happens on these pages. From recipes to travel tips to DIY projects to hacks to job advice. I mean everything under the sun.

It’s heartening to see women reaching out to each other when they are looking for answers and don’t really know whom to ask. Another big advantage is, that that reaching out to strangers is often simpler because the fear of judgement is less.

All well there… until I noticed that at least on a few pages a lot of mums put pictures of their children’s rashes, eczema patches, diarrhea, fevers, advice on vaccinations… their own health issues for that matter! And this is happening at an alarming regularity.

I am a doctor and a mother, naturally I am quite perturbed. The questions surprised me but the answers, well they have shocked me enough to be talking about them here. First of all, what makes mums pose such questions on these groups, knowing fully well that the ones who’ll respond would be strangers? So, what makes them trust these people when it comes to their child’s health? And having gone through the answers that some of them have given I doubt if any of them is even remotely qualified to answer.

Pediatricians keep drilling in the concept of exclusive breastfeeding for an infant but still when some women make inquiries about it on these groups, I see the most bizarre ‘expert’ advice floating in. I wonder on what basis does the enquirer choose which one to follow, considering there are so many of them and each one different from the other.

As I said right in the beginning that I love such pages that attempt to bring women together, but I have a strong objection to such questions being posed and subsequently answered. And I say this both from a personal and a professional point of view. This is my sincere opinion and also a request to all the women and mums out there to refrain from seeking health advice from unverified sources.

There’s a reason why most doctors refrain from giving online advice or over a phone call. Their years of training has taught them to look and feel things with their own eyes and hands. History taking is an important part of this training. I know doctors get a lot of bad press these days but you can’t take away the fact they are trained for the job.

I wouldn’t call a plumber to fix my electrical wiring or a ask a tailor to mend my shoes, then why would I put my health in the hands of a stranger…. on an online platform…. who isn’t even trained for it??

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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