Sunday, January 27, 2013

It kills everything

Even Superman mixes things up sometimes
I work with health care and have done so basically all of my career. One of the pillars of health care is clinical evidence based on medical science. Basically whenever a new treatment is proposed, it needs to prove itself through scientifically solid evidence that it is better or comparable to the currently available treatment (even if that is doing nothing). I'm inherently skeptical towards any "alternative" treatments like homeopathy, "healing" or prayers as no evidence up to date has shown any favorable outcomes and although the patients health might not negatively be impacted, someone is preying on the gullibility of the sick.

Generally my colleagues agree with me and are sensible in this, but I have often been engaged in discussion on the topic of using face masks to avoid getting a cold. The Japanese often use the masks in the belief that it actually helps in preventing getting a cold although no evidence exist that using the flimsy masks that the Japanese use actually improves the end-point here; getting a cold or not. Until there is any evidence I will continue to refuse to wear a mask.

Around a year ago one of my colleagues, Mr. Short, had purchased some form of "bacteria killer" device, I am unsure on exactly how it was supposed to function, but it was worn around the neck and supposedly would kill off bacteria in the general vicinity and thus protect the wearer from nasty bugs. This initiated some friendly discussion on whether it actually worked or not with me checking up on it on Internet and not finding any evidence apart from the manufacturer's own lab testing (which might or might not be correct, but it's all meaningless anyway unless it actually can prove to reduce the number of times the wearer gets sick). My colleague insisted that he thought it would work, but relented to the fact that he had no evidence to back him up.

The topic was forgotten about until last week, when he was suffering from a particularly nasty cold but still came into the office (wearing a mask, of course). This made me remember the anti-bacteria talisman thing from earlier. The conversation went something like this.
Mr. Salaryman: (genuinely curious) Oh yeah, what happened to that thing you wore around your neck, are you still using that? Wasn't that supposed to stop you from getting sick?
Mr. Short: (silent for a few seconds) ... no, I stopped wearing it...
Mr. Salaryman: (sending amusement) Oh really? How come?
Mr. Short: (embarrassed) Well, apparently it stopped selling it as it proved to be a little too efficient and could pose a danger to small children and you know that I have small kids, so...
Mr. Salaryman: (cannot refrain from rubbing it in) Huh? There you go, so I was right in the end, better to wait for some real evidence, huh?
Mr. Short: Yes, you were right, next time I'll wait for at least some evidence before getting a thing like that...

...I do however overuse nose-spray on occasion despite the overwhelming evidence that it's not good to do so...



9 comments:

Martin said...

Probably was the kids that infected him.

If he just used the "Talisman" a little longer he might have got rid of his bacteria infected children.

Chris said...

Mr. Salaryman: (sending amusement)

I want THAT super power!!!

Just reading that amused me...;)

gary said...

on healthcare, you should check out Atul Gawande's books

Rude Boy Abroad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rude Boy Abroad said...

The mask thing is an issue that gives me pause for thought, as I have no reason to believe that wearing one while sick will decrease the likelihood of transmitting my illness, it might be best to do it anyway, just to fit in. Haven't decided yet.

SusieTron FiveThousand said...

I use saline nose spray, not the Afrin stuff but it's cause I suffer when my nasal passages get dry. I wonder if saline only stuff is bad too.

Speaking of empirical data I have been reading up on Gerson Therapy and though I am skeptic, I still think it is a good idea to eat healthier. It's just so hard to wade through the minutia in an attempt to find valid studies. Translated: I think I am being lazy.

bigbro said...

Well, that device wouldn't work anyways, since common cold is caused by a virus, not bacteria...

Auberginefleur said...

I wish sick people would wear maks on the train so they do not sneeze all over the rest of us!

I have also found that masks keep my face warm on windy days. And, my students wear masks when they haven't had time o do their make-up.

Oh, the usefullness of masks!

~AF

aimlesswanderer said...

one doctor cousin tells me that they stop working after after they get moist, which is a matter of minutes.

That didn't stop another doctor cousin ordering industrial quantities for the massive extended family when SARs hit.

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