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Don’t hate on moms who turn to the internet for medical advice

Even if you’d never turn to the internet for medical questions, why not reserve your judgment in regards to the people who do?

My daughter has had only one frantic, terrifying, heart-stopping trip to the emergency room. She was 2. I’d managed to displace her elbow ligament by catching her when she fell, and she screamed so hard that she passed out, exhausted.

In this situation, there was no time to stop and think. The kid was obviously in trouble, and we needed her to not be, pronto. But there was no counting the number of times that late night fevers, missing bottle caps and gnarly looking falls made it less clear: What was an ER-worthy incident and what was parental paranoia?

We’ve probably all been there. If you don’t have health insurance, you’ve been there a lot. And yet, despite how easy it is to relate to the uncertainty of any of the above scenarios, empathy always seems to go out the window when a parent goes online to look for help.

Spend time on any parenting board and you’ll see someone ask a simple question, “My kid has a rash but no fever, what do I do?” which is then answered, sometimes helpfully, but more often with smarm and snark: “Get on the internet and ask strangers, of course!” or, “Go to a f***ing doctor.”

I’m not saying these responses aren’t justified. It’s just that they’re douchey.

If you find yourself being drawn to these answers like an a-hole moth to a jerk flame, stop and go pet some puppies instead.

Consider, for a moment, where that person is coming from. Parenting is basically just living in a state of fear for 18 years. Your child is ridiculously killable. Plus if you muck it up, you’ll be crucified, so there’s that to consider. Looking at it that way, any minor bump or mystery ingestion is a good enough reason to run to the ER, right?


Because on top of all of that, anyone who has ever run into a snotty ER nurse or pediatrician can tell you what it feels like to have someone dismiss your concerns as paranoia. Oh, also, it’s expensive.

My daughter’s trip to the ER bought two surprises: first, that her insurance had been canceled a few weeks prior (yay!), and second, the bill for literally three minutes of doctor time was well over $1,500 (super yay!). So some people can’t just go to a doctor, and they for sure can’t just show up at the ER unless they really like the eviction process.

What they do instead is get online to try and feel things out. There’s a huge difference between, “My kid drank bleach, should I give him Gatorade?” and “My child accidentally swallowed more than the recommended amount of toothpaste. Anyone have a suggestion?”

I’m not saying it’s a great idea to go online and crowdsource medical information. I’m just saying maybe we should stop hating on the people who do.

More on kids and the doctor

When it’s OK to lie to your pediatrician
Tips for choosing a pediatrician
Questions to ask about your child’s health

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