Health · In the news · Word of the week

Word of the week: BRAN

Last year I had a realization regarding conversational recall, and wrote about it in this piece (June 2019): I am no good at medical chat. Or, more accurately, I do not retain information about other people’s ailments, diagnoses and medications. This would be a problem if I were in the medical business, but I am not. The most useful advice I can give you if you are feeling unwell is to see a doctor. Tell me all about it if you like, but if you need medical help you should talk to a healthcare professional.

This also applies to self-medication. If you are thinking of taking, say, hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug with well documented potential side-effects) because you think it might minimize your risks of contracting the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus, you should talk to a doctor first. A real live, practising medical doctor. If he or she says, “Yeah, sure, go for it, what’s the worst that can happen?” then get a second opinion.

As things stand, in the words of this piece from the BBC website, “Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.” Also: “a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.” And finally: “The researchers warned that hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of clinical trials.” There’s enough information there for me to reject, out of hand, any thought of taking the drug “just in case”, and I am very much a “just in case” kind of guy.

There will no doubt be times when I need to decide on various forms of treatment, either preventatively or to sort out existing conditions. When those times come, I will continue to use the acronym BRAN. This is something my wife and I were taught in ante-natal classes back in 2004, the year our son was born. BRAN stands for Benefits, Risks, Alternatives and Nothing, as in “What will happen if I do nothing?” For any medical intervention, ask yourself: What are the benefits? What are the risks? What are the alternatives? What will happen if I do nothing? If the benefits outweigh the risks, if there are no alternatives, and (most importantly) if you are likely to die by doing nothing, then take whatever treatments are offered. None of this suggests that hydroxychloroquine should be used as a treatment for coronavirus. There are no clearly documented benefits. There are known risks. You could, if you were feeling perverse, suggest that there are no alternatives being offered, but that’s no justification for using unsuitable, untested treatments. Please (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this) do not think of ingesting disinfectant as a way of treating any virus. It is not an acceptable alternative. And if you have avoided contracting coronavirus there’s a strong chance that, medically speaking, you have been doing exactly the right thing, which is: nothing.



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