Allergic to water?! And preparing for emergencies

By | September 25, 2023

Over the last few years, it’s become more and more common for people to go to the internet to get information about their health and wellbeing.  And as with anything you come across on the internet, it’s important to check that the information you’re getting comes from a reliable source.

I should say before I carry on that no amount of Google searches, apps or YouTube videos can replace a diagnosis from your GP or other health specialist, and if you’re having any concerning symptoms then you should definitely make an appointment with your doctor before you head to the internet.

However, there are some good resources out there – one that I’d definitely recommend is the First Aid app (or website) from the British Red Cross.  They have instructions for what to do in different circumstances, such as allergies, head injuries, choking etc, as well as links to local first aid courses that you can sign up for.

It’s the kind of thing that you’ll want to look into before an emergency happens – the last thing you need when someone is bleeding or choking is to have to wait for the computer to warm up or for the app to finish installing on your smartphone!  So you might want to have a look at it now (you can get the app from the App Store on Apple devices or the Google Play Store on Android devices) and read up on some of the more urgent or relevant topics.

For example if you have young grandchildren coming to stay, you might want to look at some of the topics relating to babies or children.  Or during the summer, they usually have tips on how to spot someone suffering from heat exhaustion, and how best to help them.

For less urgent health problems, or general enquiries that don’t require first aid, many people turn to Google or YouTube to look up their symptoms.  Occasionally, this can send you down a bit of a rabbit hole of scare stories, and you can easily end up convincing yourself that you’ve got a deadly case of “aquagenic urticaria” (allergy to water) when really you’ve got a mild case of the sniffles from going out in the rain…

You can also find some pretty bizarre advice on what to do about your terrible water allergy, ranging from the mildly silly to the downright dangerous in some cases.  To combat this kind of false information, YouTube has launched a verification system for medical professionals who want to post videos about health or illness.

How it works is that doctors, nurses and psychologists apply to YouTube with their professional credentials, in a process that has been overseen by the NHS, the Royal College of Nursing and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.  Some of the requirements include having an active medical licence, and never having posted any videos in the past that contain disinformation.  If their application is successful, they receive a blue badge underneath their videos that says “From a licensed doctor in the UK”. 

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that any medical or health-related video without this badge is untrue or spreading false information.  The scheme is still being rolled out, so some people may not have applied for the badge yet, or some might just be sharing remedies that worked for them, without claiming to be doctors.  It’s the people who claim to be more qualified than they are, or who give out truly dangerous advice (like suggesting people drink bleach to prevent infection) that are the ones to be wary of.

So while these videos aren’t a substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis, if you do want to do some health-related research online, look for videos with a blue “licensed doctor” badge wherever possible.

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