Don’t be an armchair doctor

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 9, 2018

This time of the year seems to bring on a lot of unidentified ailments for a wide variety of people. We are currently in the middle of a major flu season and what the news is calling an epidemic. I’m glad we are better prepared to fight epidemics than in days past.

There have been infectious disease outbreaks in this country since European settlers have been here. In the 1600s, it is reported that a smallpox epidemic wiped out about 70% of the Native American Population in this country. Measles and yellow fever also took their toll. In the 1700s there was an outbreak of yellow fever. In the 1800s, cholera was the killer. In the 1900s as the population increased, there were several culprits, such as typhoid fever, Spanish flu, diphtheria, polio, and measles. The 1900s also brought us a whooping cough outbreak, and HIV and Aids.

Around the world, the number of deaths over time from plagues is staggering. The black death, smallpox, yellow fever, and various plagues have kept the human population in check.

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It would not serve any of us well to dwell on the past, the fragile balance of the human condition on this planet, or diseases that have spurred scientists to provide a cure. With the onset of internet capabilities in most homes, one of our greatest dangers are the armchair doctors who want to sit at home, look up symptoms on the internet and try to diagnose themselves, their family, and neighbors.

I believe in holistic medicine. I believe in natural cures whenever possible. But there are times when an individual needs to seek medical help instead of playing around with home remedies, or letting an armchair doctor look up their symptoms on the internet.

I have had a problem this winter with chills that seem to go all the way through me and when an episode hits, I can’t seem to get warm enough, no matter how many layers I put on. I had the bright idea of looking up the “symptom” on the internet. Good grief! That was a mistake. That one symptom is tied to so many monster diseases, it’s enough to scare a body to death!

A common practice among armchair doctors is also sharing medicine, or giving someone advice about what to take without them ever seeking professional help. Sharing medicine is NEVER a good idea.

Even a prescription with the same name between two different people is not the same. Body weight, prescription strength, and any other medications the person is taking are crucial in getting the right medicine to the right person.

A fact that some people may not realize is that even giving another person in your own family one pill or one teaspoon of medicine that was not prescribed for them by a doctor could be considered trafficking drugs. People do it all the time without realizing the danger.

I’ve even had people ask me questions like, “I’ve got a sore throat. I need some antibiotics. I’ve got a couple of pills left from the last time I was sick. Do you have any?”

There are several things wrong with that armchair doctoring. First of all, if a person gets a prescription of antibiotics, they are supposed to take them as directed and that includes taking all of the medicine to make sure the problem is taken care of. Secondly, if a person hasn’t seen a doctor, they don’t really know if they have the same thing or something new. And thirdly, someone else’s prescription was chosen for them and their special set of problems and other medications and are possibly not what the doctor would prescribe to someone else.

Nobody I’ve ever met likes to go to the doctor. It is inconvenient, costly, and often frustrating. However, if a person is sick, they need a real physician’s input and not an armchair doctor.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.