In my daily asthma news alert, I’ve recently spotted at least three articles on asthma from SELF magazine. While the articles may not have enough detailed information for those of us seeking it out, or who have been living with asthma and learning about it for awhile, I’m pleased to see asthma education going mainstream media (so long as it’s accurate).
Who’s getting “schooled”?
The reality is, you really only learn about asthma by trying to learn about asthma 90% of the time. You go on Google, you see your doctor who maybe refers you to an asthma educator, but chances are, you already have a diagnosis if you’re doing those things. There are people out there, walking around with all kinds of symptoms or things going on in their bodies that they may have no idea is a thing that could get better. Take cough variant asthma, which SELF-covered recently in an article How to know if https://www.self.com/story/is-my-cough-asthmayour seemingly harmless cough is actually asthma.
As someone who’s lived with a cough for more or less ten-and-a-half years, honestly, you learn to live with it a bit—after all, a mild-ish constant cough can be annoying but feel like nothing more. So, yeah, I can totally see someone flipping through SELF or scrolling the website innocently enough and then suddenly connecting the cough they’ve had for ages to a headline, and seeing their doctor.
As well, adults may have been told in their teen years that they’d “outgrown” their asthma, when really they simply had reached a period of dormancy or “remission” of their disease, only for it to recur (so to speak—it never really went anywhere!). They may not even have recollection of their childhood asthma symptoms, and suddenly, for example, connect their sudden “out of shape” feeling of breathlessness with exercise to exercise induced asthma based on an article they just happened upon.
Reading an article in a magazine, on a random website they’re scrolling, or hearing about asthma in a non-clinical publication or environment may be the trigger some people simply need to realize their lung issues are a problem—and one that can be solved with proper medication.
The people being “schooled” by the mainstream media may be the ones we need to reach most.
In an era where “fake news” is a buzzword (also, check out this punny Halloween costume), it’s important that the media gets asthma right for the very reasons above: they may be the first connection to a subject like asthma that a person has. Getting facts straight from reputable sources is extremely important. If asthma education is going mainstream media—whether that’s in publications like newspapers, magazines or websites, or in TV shows, cartoons or movies—it needs to be done accurately, and portray the true experience of asthma as well. (Because look, I may be a self-declared nerd, and I may wear glasses, but the fact that I’m a nerd and wear glasses doesn’t make me any more likely to have asthma.)
It’s easy to get caught by false information. But it’s also easy to not perpetuate fake news, misunderstanding and stigma by simply reading reputable sources, like research journals, university website publications (in the US they end in .edu), and have those in the know fact check your work.
Because when it comes to health information, misinformation can cause legitimate harm—and we can’t afford to take more chances than we are already taking with health and healthcare.
Tips for surveying mainstream accounts of asthma
I have to start by saying people who aren’t medical professionals can and do write accurate health information all the time. However, the best way to ensure accuracy is to check if an article has been medically reviewed if the author isn’t a medical professional (or you’re otherwise suspicious), or to confirm the facts elsewhere. To see an example of determining if an article is medically reviewed, check out the right-hand sidebar on Healthline. Quality information should be well sourced from any publication, so you should be able to dive deep on a fact that is in question. (If you’ve ever looked at the sometimes massive lists of references that follow my Asthma.Net articles… that’s why!). Click here for more on determining credibility of a source.
Of course, personal experience or opinion pieces are important parts of the narrative but may not be reliant on such stringent research. These can be taken much as a conversation with a friend would—not as professional advice, but certainly for an “I get you” feeling! And depending on your vibe that day, that can be equally important.
Sparking curiosity with fact
I do think it’s important that people be able to receive information on health in mainstream sources, as it can empower them to look for answers they may need, or realize something that is going on with their health they may not have otherwise. However, for the more casual reader who is just glancing through and sparked by a magazine, it’s important that what they are reading is accurate. I hope that as the mainstream media continue to publish pieces on asthma and other chronic diseases, they do the hard work of research—and ensure they are providing accurate information. So far, what I’ve seen published in unexpected places has been good—I hope it stays that way and we continue to spark curiosity with fact, with science.