Fact check: Accuracy of print vs. online sources of asthma information
Once upon a time, I can’t remember exactly when (so, maybe “Once upon a time, a long long time ago”?) I remember being told when doing research that books tended to be more reliable, truthful, accurate, and so forth, than websites for research. Well, today as I perused the health section of a local library, let me tell you, I think there is just as much nonsense in books that are published as there is online, proportionally speaking.
That library shelf included titles that promised to cure a variety of ailments—including predominantly allergic conditions like asthma. The shelf included books that were legitimate, factual, doctor-written and likely peer-reviewed resources (mostly for parents), but alongside them, cures, home remedies, “alternative therapies”, guides to symptoms to conquer with home remedies (which seems like a good way to get real sick, in my opinion!), and oh yes, right in the same section, How to Be a Bush Pilot (which is not, incidentally, about being an actual pilot, and I am going to leave it at that). Libraries are random like that—after all, as the cartoon Arthur taught us, “Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card!” And… I digress. My point here is that no, in my opinions, libraries are not—at least not any longer—any more reputable than the Internet is as a source of information, despite what you may have heard in school about books. In this section of the library, asthma, allergy autism, and ADHD all seem to share the same level of controversy—the falsehood of a controversy that they can be cured, and that they can be cured naturally. As a neuroatypical adult with ADHD, as an adult with asthma and some degree of allergies as much as I don’t identify as particularly atopic, and as as someone who cares for, enjoys, and loves a child with autism I work with, I disagree with all of these ideations that these conditions can (and in the case of autism and ADHD, that they should) be cured.
Regardless of if you are exploring the depths of the internet or those of your local library, you must be diligent in identifying factual information. Information that has been peer-reviwed, research that is recent or well-founded, and does not make claims that are too good to be true. No, my doctor cannot cure me, and nor can some book in a library. As skeptical as I am of Big Pharma, and that Big Pharma is blocking the reality of a cure for asthma or allergies from our grip, the reality is, Big Pharma does sell cures: hepatitis C has a costly cure available for up to 90% of people , but one which exists; we “cure” infections with antibiotic treatments; some cancers like leukemia or autoimmune conditions can be “cured” with bone marrow or stem cell transplant—in this last instance especially, this is of course a treatment and there is a possibility, like any cure, that it will fail. Yet, many people remain in states of remission or completely symptom free for decades if not their lifetime.
Yet, this is not the case for us. This is not the case for those of us with asthma or allergies or ADHD or autism or diabetes. Science has not created us a cure yet. No matter what those books on the shelf in the library say: we cannot reverse this. The only “reversal” is the improvement of symptoms with intervention, and if that intervention is stopped, the symptoms of that condition will recur or increase in severity. Writing like this is like attracting a moth to a flame—or a troll to a blog post, or an alt therapy proponent or “self-cured” person to provide their story. For instance, you do not “cure” type 2 diabetes with exercise and diet: you treat it. Insulin resistance is still present, you are just interacting with your body in a way that is more compatible with being insulin resistant. If you were to return to the previous lifestyle, elevated blood glucose would return—thus, this is a management strategy or treatment for type 2 diabetes, just like taking medicines or allergy shots are a treatment for asthma or allergies. Management strategies are not a cure. A cure is something that means I never have to think about the reality of chronic disease again.
Just as online, information you find in your local library may not be truthful either. The key here? Fact check, fact check, fact check. Check publication dates, author credentials, sources used, publishing authority, if the book was medically reviewed. Be aware of inflammatory language, of grandiose claims, of anything that makes you suspicious. And as always, if you find something of interest to you, speak with your doctor or a member of your care team before making any changes to your asthma management.