I'm often asked for advice on difficult, grey areas of medicine. Should I use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, or will it cause a deficiency in Vitamin D? Is it worth it to eat fish for the good fats if they also have heavy metals? Should I have my children vaccinated?
One of my clients here in Thailand recently woke in the middle of the night feeling very hot and achey all over her body. In the early morning, she had her temperature taken, and it was over 39 degrees (103 Fahrenheit). With time it was discovered she had caught Dengue fever from a mosquito bite here locally.
She, like myself, only occasionally spritzes herself with some lemongrass spray. Often, the spray is not strong enough to keep the hungry buggers away, particularly during rainy season as we are in now.
The evening after her diagnosis, I was jumping rope on the roof of the building I live in, and noticed a swarm of the flying pests buzzing all around my sweating self. I kept a pretty steady stream of movement in order to prevent them from landing. The situation was great motivation for my workout. But it also let my mind imagine the odds of one of these critters carrying the virus, and whether I would succumb to it if they bit me.
The most readily-available, sure protection against mosquito madness are products containing DEET. There are times I have chosen to use DEET in the past, but they are very few. DEET is a known neurotoxin. (See the evidence, if you don't trust me.) Knowing this, and also knowing there are multiple recently-reported cases of Dengue fever from this area of Thailand, do I choose to use it?
Grey areas are everywhere when it comes to health matters. Is coffee good for you or bad for you? It depends on who you are, how much, when you drink it, what quality, and how it is prepared. We most often receive health news as blanket generalizations.
Red Wine is Good.
Saturated Fat is Bad.
You Should Never Use DEET, it is Toxic.
Nothing is ever certain when it comes to health. And that makes decision-making difficult. The best you can do is gather all of the information that you have time to read through, and make your own educated decision. Of course, ask your friends like myself that have medical education. Find yourself a good doctor, naturopath, or other medical practitioner that is willing to take the time to hear your concerns without judgement and give you well-educated advice.
Regardless of whatever good advice you receive from people you know, even myself, you are still your own best advocate. No one cares for yourself, your children, or your loved ones more than you do. Educate yourself.
Johnson & Johnson, the maker of the artifical sweetener Splenda, is currently being sued for misrepresentation for its choice of marketing a product called "Splenda Essentials." Because if the product is labeled as such, consumers will then believe that Splenda is essential for health. (?)
A representative of the Federal Trade Commission defended the argument against Splenda with the opinion that "consumers most likely can't judge for themselves whether the food has the claimed benefit."
I didn't know I was quite that stupid. Did you?
I guess it did take a lawsuit to prove to some in our species that Nutella is not a health food product.
You can't trust your doctor to know best.
You can't trust the Federal Trade Commission to have any faith in your intelligence.
And you sure as hell can't trust the major media to represent the whole of any story.
No, I have not chosen to use any DEET to prevent mosquito bites. The young woman who contracted the Dengue fever was severely stressed and had a weakened immune system. If I was unhealthy right now, I may have chosen differently. I also very rarely get bitten by mosquitoes in the first place. The situation is always relative to us as individuals.
The internet is a ripe environment for learning about health matters. Although you have to do a lot of sifting to find the validity, much of the information available is useful. It is difficult to be your own health advocate, to take responsibility for yourself and your family. But you have no other choice.