Take it with a pinch of salt, says medical practitioners 

Medical: Ten steps to get rid of back pain. What fruit to eat to cure hay fever or how to buy 10 crucial seconds and survive a heart attack!

The internet is full of health tips and suggestions. This is made more accessible when shared on social media. With instructions, procedures and illustrations that make it more appealing to readers, the social media community is spreading the words besides believing and following them.

Sonam Penjor, 36, couldn’t shake off the lower back pain despite visiting the hospital several times. He remembered his friend sharing a post on Facebook- “10 causes of lower back pain and 7 exercises to relieve back pain.”

He is trying that out. “The result is good as for now,” he said.

“I don’t boil water again and again after I saw a warning on Facebook,” said Ugyen a corporate employee. “I believed in it and thought there is no harm in not boiling it all over.”

Thimphu resident Ugyen Dorji, suffering from a sore knee met a friend who shared the same problem. He also shared some tips through social media. “The result of the exercise is quite shocking,” he said. He took it a step further. He Googled the author and found out that he was a popular physiotherapist in New Zealand.

Patients, who are already active social media users, consider themselves part of a group and tend to trust others on social media more than other sources. “I follow the page My Health tips. It educates us on a wide range of medical knowledge, making us familiar with those causes and prevention of particular diseases,” said a kidney patient, Samten Yoesel. He met a doctor through Facebook who he cross checks with the information he avails on social media.

But medical practitioners advice people to be cautious. Physiotherapist at the Thimphu national referral hospital, Cheten Norbu said one must do research and discuss with health professionals before someone actually follow online advice. “If it is authentic posted by the health professional, it is advisable to practice it,” he said.

The hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Gosar Pemba said that it’s important to check the source of such articles online with so many materials available on the internet.

“Whatever posted or shared online cannot be totally wrong, but it is important to authenticate the source,” Dr Gosar Pemba said, adding that information from well-established medical journals is more reliable.

Health and Fitness Expert and three time “Mr Bhutan” Tshering Dorji said sharing any good and relevant information through any platform is useful. But when it comes to authenticity, the fitness expert said there are plenty of senseless one-dimensional opinions and misguiding advice. “As a social media user, it is important to consider an individual, group or websites education, experience, passion, and reliable first hand testimonials about them before you follow, read or listen to them.”

The media literate are more cautious. “The internet is great but we can’t trust whatever is online,” said a mother of two civil servant. “I might try out tips to get rid of my sore throat, but will never try tips to put my baby to sleep,” she remarked.

Tshering Dorji
Tshering Dorji is an intern with Kuensel