'Starve a cold, feed a fever': 9 things to know about the medical myths patients believe

Misconceptions regarding medicine and health are common and often become deeply entrenched in culture, highlighting the need for fact-based healthcare education to refute them.

In honor of April Fool's Day, InCrowd conducted a microsurvey of 200 physicians and nurses, asking them about unusual health misinformation relayed by patients throughout their years in healthcare.

Here are nine things to know.

1. Common health and healthcare falsehoods were comprised 41 percent of the responses.

2. Old, cultural treatment myths accounted for 23 percent of the responses.

3. Twenty-eight percent of the responses were random beliefs held by patients.

4. Nine percent of responses relayed by providers were related to misconceptions regarding the cause of an illness.

5. The most prominent type of fallacies reported were linked to sex and pregnancy, which covered 10 percent of the total responses. Clinicians reported patients express beliefs that having sex in certain positions would increase the likelihood of having a boy, eating papaya could cause a miscarriage and experiencing heartburn while pregnant means the child will be born with a full head of hair.

6. Vaccination myths accounted for 9 percent of responses with patients stating that vaccines cause health conditions like autism and influenza.

7. Numerous providers reported encountering patients who believed "a shot of whiskey a day" was the key to longevity.

8. False remedies like "starve a cold, feed a fever" were also commonly reported. Multiple providers reported seeing patients who believed cold weather caused illness, expressing notions like "I can't have pneumonia because it isn't cold outside."

9. Many patients expressed fear generated by care misconceptions like mammograms cause cancer and that hospitals withhold care from organ donors in order to procure organs.

"Patients should not be judged for being misinformed, but the data provides those in health and wellness an opportunity to improve communication," said Phil Moyer, InCrowd's senior director of crowd operations. "The onus is on both the healthcare community and the media to empower the public with the facts and guidance that best inform patient health behaviors. Though the most prevalent medical myths may always exist, conversations with practitioners may go a long way in helping patients manage their health and achieve optimal outcomes."

More articles on patient engagement: 
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Survey: 5 trends in patient engagement

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