This past year has heightened anxiety and concern over health like nothing I have seen in my career. This is completely understandable as this is the first (and hopefully last) worldwide pandemic of my career. With the pandemic has come a flood of information that most people are unfamiliar with how to handle.
One example of this is the online rumor that forehead thermometers (like the ones used in our offices) can somehow damage the pineal gland in the brain by emitting infrared radiation. This rumor was started in July 2020 by a Facebook post warning people not to get their temperatures measured in this way.
This is false.
A forehead thermometer emits no radiation; it senses the infrared heat emitted by the body and measures it. Nothing is emitted from a thermometer. Some thermometers have a placement laser which is the same type of technology used in laser levels. They display a light that is used solely to measure the distance between the thermometer and the forehead. This light is used to ensure it is close enough to detect an accurate temperature.
However, this misinformation has led some patients to refuse to get their temperatures taken when they enter our office. This hampers our ability to continue to serve our patients as this pandemic continues.
The Trouble with Online Information
This is far from the only example of online misinformation leading to negative real world consequences. I have had questions from my patients asking about a variety of concerns that have originated from Facebook or Twitter posts. I am always happy to answer questions about any concern a patient may have, but I also feel compelled to offer a useful resource to help those interested learn how to identify misinformation online.
How to Resist the Misinformation
There is a whole non-profit bipartisan organization devoted to this cause called First Draft. First Draft was started in 2015 by a coalition of journalists and has since started to receive funding from various private companies including (fittingly) the biggest platforms for spreading misinformation – Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Their funding of First Draft has been in part due to pressure from the public and from the government for them to do more to help people spot the difference between an advertisement, news, propaganda, and opinion. They offer free courses to the public which can be found here: https://firstdraftnews.org/training/
Please feel free to message me or any of the doctors at Revolutions Naturopathic if you have read about something online that has you concerned. We will be happy to answer your questions. Be careful out there!