If You Want Misinformation, Keep Asking Facebook Moms These Questions
By Alicia McAuley
Photo © Bungg/Twenty20
Nov 4, 2019
Mom groups on Facebook are a wild place. At their best, they provide moms with a virtual “village” of sorts; a valuable support network that women can lean on while navigating the daunting task of raising children.
They give moms instant access to a community of women offering tips and advice to help each other through the challenges of parenthood, both big and small. They’re also a great place to seek recommendations for products and services, ask for tried-and-true solutions to common parenting problems and blow off steam on particularly difficult days.
But Facebook mom groups have their share of challenges, too.
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It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and well-intentioned discussions can quickly veer off course into drama and judgment when parenting styles and opinions clash.
It’s also a place where people ask a lot of questions, and sometimes I feel like those questions are just not appropriate for Facebook — especially when they’re related to health or medical issues.
I'm a mom, and like many of you, I've been deep in the trenches of Facebook mom groups. So here are five common questions you should avoid asking on Facebook, and where to turn for answers instead.
What’s this rash?
This question pops up surprisingly often, and is always accompanied by a photo of mysterious red bumps or patches on a child’s skin.
While a sudden rash can be cause for alarm, it’s not the kind of thing that can be properly diagnosed from a photo, and certainly not by a bunch of strangers on the internet. If you show the same photo to a group of 100 moms, each of them might have a different answer based on their personal experiences: it could be hand-foot-and-mouth disease, chicken pox, roseola or eczema.
Realistically, that rash could be just about anything — but a misdiagnosis from a well-meaning person online could result in the wrong type of treatment, and ultimately result in your child’s condition becoming worse.
A safer bet is to use an online resource like HealthLink BC, which offers a handy symptom checker for parents to help determine if a rash is serious and requires immediate medical attention. You can also place a call to a public health nurse (through a service like Telehealth Ontario) who can help you determine if your child should see a doctor.
Does this pregnancy test look positive to you?
If you’re part of a mom group on Facebook, chances are you’ve found yourself squinting at a photo of a home pregnancy test at least once, trying to determine if that mark in the window is a faint line or just a shadow. But depending on a number of factors, different people may see different things.
Suddenly, you’ve got a parenting version of The Dress and it can lead to unnecessary heartbreak for a hopeful mom. It can be hard to be patient, especially if pregnancy is something that you’ve been wishing and patiently waiting for already. According to HealthLink BC, a faint line on a home pregnancy test could be the result of low levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG in your urine, which could be the result of testing too early.
They recommend waiting a few days to re-test. If you think you might be pregnant, you can also speak with your healthcare provider about getting a blood test to confirm.
How long is the wait at [insert hospital emergency room here]?
Let’s be honest: no parent wants to spend hours hanging out in a crowded hospital waiting room, especially when their child is sick or injured.
But unless the members of your Facebook group moonlight as Psychic Friends, they’re not going to be able to tell you what your wait time looks like. For starters, emergency rooms are not a first-come-first-served kind of place. As Santé Montreal explains, wait times may vary depending on the number of people already there, and the severity of your child’s condition compared to the condition of others. Some emergency rooms and urgent care facilities do offer approximate wait times online (like this convenient list from Alberta Health Services), but ultimately there are no guarantees.
It should go without saying that if your child is severely ill or badly injured, a trip to the emergency room is warranted, and waiting is an unavoidable part of the process. But if you’re not sure that a visit to the ER is necessary, a call to a public health service (like Alberta’s Health Link) can offer guidance on appropriate next steps.
Should my kids get a flu shot this year?
You’ll know that cold and flu season has officially arrived when this question starts popping up in your Facebook mom group.
The problem with this question is that it usually ends up sparking a heated debate, as all hot-button issues inevitably do (see also: circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, breastfeeding and approximately 8,000 other controversial topics). That said, Health Canada very clearly recommends that all Canadians over six months of age should get the flu shot — especially those who are considered “high risk” for experiencing flu-related complications, or those who could pass on the flu to others who are high risk.
Ultimately, it comes down to making the choice that works for your family. But ideally you should make that choice using information that is based on scientific data, and not as a result of opinions and anecdotes from people who are not qualified to offer medical advice.
Things you could just Google instead
For questions like “what stores are open on this holiday?” and “when is the Canada Child Benefit payment released this month?” Google is a great resource and allows you to find information instantly, rather than waiting for replies on Facebook. This one isn’t such a big deal, but in the interest of saving time (yours and everyone else’s), it’s a good practice to Google simple, single-answer questions first, and ask Facebook second.
Or third. Or never. Your call.
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