Verifying truths twice: Health care in the age of Whatsapp forwards and Google search

With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp has regularly been a conduit for fake news and information. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, WhatsApp has become a conduit for fake cures and conspiracy theories about coronavirus.

A plethora of false and unverified information has been spread amidst the global pandemic. Well-intentioned and fearful individuals are forwarding messages with misleading information. The cases range from warnings over made-up extraordinary measures the government might take to keep people in their homes to false numbers of deaths and the levels of preparedness of medical services. These kinds of posts have been shared in private chat groups from Indonesia to Nigeria to India. There has also been dissemination of false theories about  herbal cures and misinformation about the virus.

WhatsApp is different from any other social media because of its privacy. It is a messaging application meant for staying in touch with friends and family. Groups in Whatsapp have no public link and there is no publicly available data on how many exist, who’s in them or what their average size is. WhatsApp is susceptible to misinformation because there are a lot of things that circulate in specific circles of communication which cannot be tracked. Many WhatsApp users rely on it as a primary source of information.

Believing this information may prove to be detrimental. Therefore people are encouraged to verify the facts and then take necessary steps to curb its spread. On 20th March the World Health Organization launched a messaging service with partners WhatsApp and Facebook to keep people safe from misinformation related to COVID-19. This application can be reached easily and enables WHO to get information directly into the hands of the people who need it. The service can be accessed through a link that opens a conversation, prompting a menu of options that can help answer the questions related to coronavirus.

In the high-speed information free-for-all on social media platforms and the internet, everyone can be a publisher. As a result, citizens struggle to discern what is true and what is false. Therefore the onus of keeping WhatsApp clean largely falls on conscientious users reporting fake content to go government and fact-checking organizations. Therefore we urge everyone to stop sharing unverified information on WhatsApp groups and individual chats. These messages are scaring and confusing people and are hazardous during this time of crisis. We also urge people to verify and check any facts that are being circulated before implementing and acting on it.

World Parkinson’s Day: Treating for Normalcy

Parkinson’s disease is the world’s second most common neurodegenerative disorder behind Alzheimer’s. April is Parkinson’s Awareness month, with 11th April being Parkinson’s awareness day. People need to be more informed about the disorder in order to understand the patients and be sensitive towards them. Each year international communities come together on this day to raise awareness of the illness. With events taking place across the globe, experts are constantly trying to raise vital funds for research and cure.

Parkinson’s is caused by a loss of a nerve cell in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Experts believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the damage of nerve cells in the brain. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder, which means that over time, the brain of an individual living with the disease becomes more damaged. The dopamine level in the body is affected by Parkinson’s. Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain. The main symptom of Parkinson’s involves the involuntary shaking, slower movements and the usual stiffness in the muscles. Other symptoms may include difficulty balancing, nerve pain, incontinence, insomnia, excessive sweating, depression and anxiety.

While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s Disorder, symptoms may be controlled through treatments. The most common form of treatment used for Parkinson’s is medication.  With the help of drug treatments, doctors aim at increasing the dopamine level that reaches the brain and stimulates the parts of the brain where dopamine works. However, the medication for each person differs according to their vitals. As the symptoms of the disorder progress, the drugs used to treat the condition may need to be changed. While the drug treatment may help to manage Parkinson’s symptoms, it cannot slow the progression of the disease. Supportive treatments like physiotherapy and occupational therapy also prove to be helpful for people with Parkinson’s. Sometimes brain surgeries are also done to improve the condition.

Many people respond well to treatments and only experience mild to moderate disability, whereas a minority of people may not respond well to the treatments, and in time can become seriously disabled. Carbidopa/Levodopa remains the most effective symptomatic therapy and is available in many strengths and formulations. It also may be used in combination with other classes of medications including Dopamine Agonists, COMT Inhibitors, MAO Inhibitors, and Anticholinergic agents. Physical therapy can improve gait and direct an individual to the right exercise regimen. Occupational therapy can be used to maximize fine motor skills. Speech therapy can be useful to address speech and language problems that may arise with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s does not directly cause people to die. However, the condition can place great strain for the body and cause some people to become vulnerable to serious illness and life-threatening infections. With advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson’s now have normal or near-normal life expectancy.

Malaria, how the world has been able to control the disease

Malaria is a serious disease caused by plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors”.  Malaria sometimes proves to be a dangerous and fatal disease.

Malaria has prehistoric origin as a zoonotic disease in the primates of Africa through to the 21st century. Malaria infected every continent except Antarctica. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2018, 228 cases million clinical cases of malaria occurred and 405,000 people died. As malaria causes so much illness and death, the disease is a great drain on many national economies. The disease is known to maintain a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.

According to WHO, Malaria is an acute febrile illness. Symptoms in a non-immune individual appear approximately 10-15 days after being bitten by an infective mosquito. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, chills. They are often difficult to recognize as symptoms of malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death. People get malaria after being bitten by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria after being infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person. The parasite is found in the red blood cells of an infected person. It can be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to an unborn child. However, malaria is not transmitted from one person to another. One cannot get malaria through casual contact with a person.

Vector control is the only way to prevent malaria from spreading. There are two forms of vector control – insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying. They are effective in a wide range of circumstances. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets, when used while sleeping, can reduce contact between mosquitoes and humans by providing both a physical barrier and an insecticidal effect. From the killing of mosquitoes on a large scale where there is high access and usage of such nets within a community can result in population-wide protection. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides is another powerful way to rapidly reduce malaria transmission. Spraying the inside of housing structures with an insecticide, typically once or twice per year is recommended. To confer significant community protection, IRS should be implemented at a high level of coverage.

There are a number of anti-malaria drugs available for protection and care. Chloroquine, artemisinins, insecticide called DDT (DichloroDiphenylTrichloroethane), pyrethrum are all anti-malarial drugs. Use of chemoprophylaxis, intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are also some of the recommended anti-malarial drugs used. Since 2012, WHO has recommended seasonal malaria chemoprevention as an additional malaria prevention strategy. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment, particularly for P. falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is the first and, to date, the only vaccine to show that it can significantly reduce malaria, and life-threatening severe malaria.

The permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of malaria infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate activities is known as malaria elimination. Continued measures are required to prevent re-establishment of transmission.

First Aid First, making a basic first aid kit at home

First-aid is the first and immediate assistance given to any person suffering from either a minor or serious illness or injury, with care provided to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening, or to promote recovery.  A well-stocked first-aid kit is a handy thing to have. We should always be prepared for emergency situations.

It is advised to keep a first-aid kit in your home and in your car. Always be informed about where to find a first-aid kit. You should also be aware about the location of the first-aid kit in your work-place. Whether you buy a first-aid kit or make one, make sure that you have all the necessities. The kits can be basic or comprehensive based on the medical proficiency and how far you are from professional medical help. If you are travelling, make sure to have enough medical sustenance for as long as you may be travelling.

You can make a simple and inexpensive first aid kit yourself. Home first aid kits are usually used for treating these types of minor traumatic injuries like burns, cuts, abrasions, stings, splinters, sprains and strains. Travel first aid kits need to be comprehensive because a drug store may or may not be accessible. The kit should have contents to be able to alleviate fever, nasal congestion, cough and sore throat. It should also contain items to treat cuts, mild pain, gastrointestinal problems, skin problems and allergies.

You can get all the items of the first aid kit in a well-stocked pharmacy. You can ask the pharmacist to help you with it. A household first aid kit should have at least 15 of the following items in it.

  1. Adhesive Tape

  2. Anaesthetic spray

  3. Sterile gauze pads

  4. Ace bandages

  5. Adhesive bandages

  6. Diphenhydramine – for allergic reactions

  7. Exam gloves

  8. Antibiotic cream

  9. Non-adhesive pads

  10. Pocket mask for CPR

  11. Resealable  oven bags as a container for contaminated items

  12. Safety pins both large and small

  13. Scissors

  14. Tweezers

In case of a medical or trauma related emergency, a list of family member’s medical history, medications, doctors, insurance company, and contact persons should be readily available.Try to keep your first aid kit small and simple. There should be multi-use items. Try to make it water-proof and drop-resistant.

Dealing with COVID-19 isolation, how to cope with it.

The circulating memes on the internet make us believe that staying at home is an easy task. But it is not always as simple as they portray, especially when we, human beings, are born as social creatures. So, to start with, it is completely okay to feel the way you do. Taking care of your mental health during this self-isolation period is as important as self-isolating. The thought of a virus outbreak alone can bring in stress and anxiety to people. Persuading someone to deal with all this alone might add up to their existing misery. Here are a few tips for you to deal with COVID-19 isolation.

1. Follow a healthy lifestyle

It is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle even when you are in isolation.

  • Eat healthy food. However, try not to overeat

  • Exercise daily. Meditating can help you relieve stress.

  • Get enough rest. Sleep at least for 8 hours a day. Don’t over-sleep.

  • Stay hydrated(This is very important)

2. Make your time worthy

“An Idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. When you are alone for long, you start to question the meaning of life. But once you engage yourself in something meaningful, your mind focuses on the right things. It is crucial to engage in activities to keep yourself and your mind busy during this period. You can rejuvenate your mind by embracing your hobbies. You now have time for everything you always wanted to do. You can start by redecorating your house or you can restart your drawing or you can even restart your instrument practice. Also, if some rest is what you were longing for, devote yourself to some self-care with body care, hair care, etc. Anyhow, make these days satisfying for you and your soul.

2. Stay informed

Stay updated with accurate and true news from credible sources. Staying well-informed can reduce your stress. Don’t fall for fake news. It is also important to reduce your media consumption, especially if you are already feeling vulnerable. Consumption of too much data from news channels, online content, etc. will feed your anxiety and fear and will adversely affect your isolation days.

3. Stay connected

Don’t let this isolation period break your social network. Stay connected with your friends and family through video calling and other social media. You can share your worries and anxieties with your loved ones too. This will reduce stress. You can also check on other people who live alone and talk about how they are coping up with the situation. It is also important to talk about things other than the virus outbreak to feel relaxed.

4. Avoid the use of tobacco and alcohol

The tendency to use smoking and drinking as relief is normal. But never fall for it. It will not help you in any way. It is better to avoid drinking and smoking during this situation as it may affect your mental health. Make sure you keep it under control if you do engage in smoking or drinking.

  5. Stay busy. But never forget to breath

To be engaged all the time is good during this period. But never take it too hard on yourself. Take time to breathe and enjoy the benefits of this period. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Enjoy your company and embrace peace. You should never hesitate to seek medical assistance in case you find it too difficult to handle

Feeling lost and anxious about the situation is normal. Sharing such grief and following the above tips will help you overcome this period. Be happy about the time you got. Make maximum use out of it. Stay productive and happy, because everything is going to be alright.

The right medication: The wrong pill is worse than no pills at all

Over-the-counter medications or home remedies might sound reliable as they are easy to get.
We tend to self-diagnose our symptoms and decide to take a pill for relief. Sometimes we find
the medications online by ourselves. Sometimes, we seek help from our friends or family
members who have the same symptoms. Other times, we decide to rely on pharmacists for the
medication. Each of these scenarios raises health risks. Ingestion of a wrong medicine or a right
medicine in the wrong dose can cause harmful drug reactions.

It is always advisable to take medicines only after doctor consultation. Sticking to a medication
routine, i.e, consuming medicines as prescribed at the correct dosage- the right way at the right
frequency is called the right medication. Any sort of divergence from this arrangement affects
your health adversely. The medical condition for which you take the medicine can get worse,
your organs can get damaged or even be fatal.

Other than these, wrong medication can also cause skin irritation, constipation, dizziness,
headache, insomnia, and a lot more. The side effects thus vary from minor to severe and
sometimes, it might even become life-threatening. The adverse effects of the wrong medication
arise from non-compliance or non-adherence of medication.

Sometimes wrong medication can happen even without your knowledge. A pharmacy can
provide you with the wrong medicines or alternatives. It is important not to fall for it. You must
have a clear idea of what your medicines look like in shape and colour to avoid pharmacy
mistakes. Avoid taking the alternatives to as the interaction of certain drugs can cause serious
health risks. You might be unaware of the drug reactions that can happen when these OTC
medicines get mixed up with your regular medications. All these harmful side effects of
medications bring us back to the importance of doctor consultation.

To avoid risks caused by wrong medication, you should always keep a track of the medicines
consumed, especially when you start a new medication. The unusual changes should not be
ignored and in such cases, the medicine intake should be stopped immediately. This alleviates
the risk of medications and stops it from getting worse. It is also necessary to take these
medication errors or unusual effects caused by such medications to your doctor without further
ado. Self-medication, over-the-counter medication, consumption of medicines in the wrong
quantity or frequency, home remedies, etc. can pose serious health risks starting from multiple
organ failures to even death. Seeking medical assistance for every medical requirement is the
only solution to avoid such risks.