Articles | Tips and Tricks

How to Spot Fake (Medical) News and Ads

January 4, 2018

As moms (and responsible citizens), we have the privilege and responsibility to make decisions not only for ourselves but for our family. We are constantly bombarded with information on the latest products claiming safety for our kids, on the latest status of diseases making rounds in our communities, on the advantages and side effects of the different drugs and vaccines in the market.

Moms are dependent on information available to us for decision-making, especially for the health and safety of our children. Unfortunately, people in the media and online know our weakness: that we will do anything to ensure the health of our kids, and that we will unleash hell on anyone who compromises the safety of our families. Hence, people will tug at our heartstrings and show us partial-truths (or even outright lies) just to get us wound up and ready to fight (or buy).

Last year, when I became a mom, I realized more so how powerful a headline, a tagline, a photo, or a caption can be. How many spontaneous decisions have I made because of a catchy phrase? Who wouldn’t buy something that is “trusted by pediatricians” or something that “kills 99.9% of bacteria”? And it’s not just the product-buying, it’s the major health decisions as well. The medical community has been in the spotlight again last year for several issues and the media frenzy that followed was just crazy. I found myself explaining several times to friends and family on diseases, vaccines, etc.

Because of this I realized: it is not my responsibility as a doctor to be informed and to meticulously separate truth from gossip, a good product from a money-making business. It is my job as a mom!

So as we welcome the new year, I hope to equip not only moms but everyone who is constantly bombarded by “information” with doubt. Why doubt? Because it is with doubt that we begin to question, and with questioning that we discover facts. I hope the list that follows will open people’s minds to critical thinking. Because as family decision-makers it is critical we make informed choices, for us and for our kids.

Tips on how to make informed (and responsible) decisions about health and products related to health:


1.Read beyond the headline

Headlines are made to catch your attention. It doesn’t promise to give you the whole story. When you read: “Vaccine kills 2 kids” as the title, please please read the whole article. Do not make up your mind about the issue based on a title.


2.Check their sources

Advertisements especially on products usually cite sources for their claims (as they should). Check the sources they site. Are those credible sources? Some advertisements and articles just love to namedrop personalities or societies that “swear by their product”. A simple google search will give you a glimpse if their sources are legit.


3.Read their sources

After googling the cited source of information, read through it. I have personally come across a company selling air purifiers that cited a scientific paper proving the efficacy of their product. They even quoted the article saying that the product reduces pollutants in the room. However, when I read through the scientific paper, they did say that the product does reduce the amount of pollutants, but the conclusion of the study is that although the pollutants in the air decreased, they did not actually see concrete improvement in the asthma of the children who used the purifiers. Furthermore, the kind of purifier was not the same with the product. Lesson: although scientific sources are cited, you must read through the sources because writers and advertisers can include only parts of the scientific papers that are advantageous to their side or product.


4.Listen only to experts

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Listen respectfully, but know the people who you should let shape your opinion on an issue. A lawyer will not be credible talking about the benefits and side effects of vaccines, just as a doctor is not qualified to make statements on the legality of procurement. Just think, if you got sick, would you want a lawyer to administer medicines to you? Would you want a doctor to defend you in court? Didn’t think so.


5.Get both sides of the story

Even experts can get biased. For example: a doctor who promotes a certain medication may be sponsored by the company who makes the medication. People who feel strongly about their side will often speak out. Therefore, it is our responsibility to listen to experts from both sides of the story. See why these experts are so against or supportive of the cause. Try to see where they are coming from. People who speak out are usually comfortable with the press and very charismatic and convincing. So how will we not be easily swayed? Listen to both the pro side and the con side.


6.Talk to friends and families who know

I’m sure you have a family or friend who is an expert in the field. Ask them questions or at least have them point you to trustworthy sources. However, don’t depend on them to make your decisions for you.


7.Don’t believe in social media

First off, refrain from reading medical news on facebook. There are a lot of bogus articles circulating there. Next, if ever the article shared is legit, don’t read the comments section. Lots of people (and fake trolls) say whatever comes to mind (which are often hateful and false). Don’t get on the bandwagon.


8.Don’t make the decision right this second

You don’t need to buy this product right now (even if it says limited stocks only). You also shouldn’t decide that all your kids will not receive vaccines after reading one article. Take time to research, ask questions, and critique what you hear and see.


9.Be responsible!

Resist the urge to comment on social media: stop spreading hate and mania. Also, when sharing articles, make sure you read through the whole thing and scrutinize its contents before sharing. Social media is rarely the avenue for scientific discussion. Be respectful of others’ opinions but form your own well-informed choices.

         So the next time you see a product or article, make sure you take the time to scrutinize them. There are still a lot of really useful, beneficial and scientifically-proven  health products out there, as well as accurate, unbiased news. It is our job to pick out the truth from the lies. Remember, your family is depending on you to make responsible decisions, and society is counting on you to uphold truth! Let’s show the world that we mothers are not to be messed around with. Happy new year to all you awesome mommas!

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