By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Pediatric advice is often easy to get from family members. The most experienced member of any family seems to be the maternal grandmother. They raised the mother, therefore they know all the answers.

It is not a big surprise that they are usually correct. They do not have a medical degree, however they do have experience. That is valuable.

The only real issue is the experience tends to be based upon a small sampling. It usually comes from what they have done with their own children and it is often handed down from their mother.

It is like the old joke. The holiday family gathering featured the mother cooking a roast. She cut off the end of the roast and threw it away. Her daughter asked why.

Mother answered that was the way her mother did it. So they went to grandma and she answered that was the way her mother did it.

So they went to great-grandma and she replied that she had a small pan so she cut the roast to fit.

If that happened to be medical advice, sometimes it might not have been the best advice.

For example, I would often see infants for their two-week checkup with a silver dollar taped to the umbilical area.

I knew that the advice had come from grandma. It was an attempt to make sure the belly button would be flat and not protrude.

The fact that it did not work did not matter.

The fact that the tape was irritating the skin around the umbilical area did not matter.

The fact that they were reusing a filthy coin did not matter. That was the advice.

Things have changed. Grandmothers still give advice, which still remains pretty much on target. However, there is a new source of advice.

When I do an Internet search on a medical topic, it frequently comes back with an online chat group.

Sometimes I look to see what that chat group is saying about the topic. More often than not I am horrified about how bad the information is.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry puts in their two cents. However, collectively, their information is not even worth that two cents.

Some of these sites will tell parents not to get immunizations. The medical knowledge behind this is usually totally inaccurate. It is based upon hearsay and misinformation.

Some of these sites will tell mothers to have home births. That is not necessarily a bad idea, however when they tell the mother to ignore the warning signs of a complicated pregnancy, that borders on potentially murdering the baby.

Some of these sites tout natural remedies. Their experience is based upon nothing in the way of medical evidence.

It is purely an opinion and it often speaks to the remedies being nothing more than placebo effect.

Perhaps we should allow readers who are harmed to sue for malpractice.

I would bet if the writers had to buy malpractice insurance, they would be a lot more careful with their advice.

Anyone who does an online search needs to be aware of the lack of real medical knowledge of the self proclaimed medical gurus that frequent those sites.

They are probably better off asking grandma. She is much more likely to be correct.

Coronavirus update

Since Friday, Feb. 28, coronavirus infections in the U.S. have been doubling every 72 hours.

As I write this on Monday, March 16, we stand at about 3,600 cases nationwide.

After last week’s multiple changes to the way we do things and with the prolonged incubation period, it will take until about Monday, March 23, to see if there is a significant effect on the number of new cases.

Even if things slow down, the process will probably take at least another 4 to 6 weeks to wind down.