Obviously Wrong Medical Advice

Experts love to give obviously incorrect medical advice and then turn it into moral imperatives. It’s no wonder that there’s growing scepticism of the establishment.

Case in point: I was wondering whether wearing a regular t-shirt while snorkeling would provide much sun protection. Yes, I understand it’s not ideal, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right?

Nearly every authoritative site claimed that wearing a t-shirt is useless as sun protection. Most nice-looking blogs claimed you needed a rash guard that you could conveniently buy with an affiliate link. It was only a reddit post that brought reality home: if a t-shirt didn’t offer sun protection, there would be no such thing as tan lines.

There’s a deeper issue with weighing risk and professionals giving advice that’s meant to protect from liability rather than be useful. Of course covering every square inch of your skin with SPF 50 sunscreen and wearing special SPF fabric is the best. It’s also not realistic. People can sense they’re being played and then ignore even sensible advice.

In case you’re curious, a regular old t-shirt offers great sun protection.

Covid and science

We’ve known how Covid is spread since the very beginning: aerosols and not surfaces. Ukrainians were cobbling together improvised masks almost right away. It took my relatives in the US months to start wearing masks. Now they’ve become a talisman and are worn in situations where they offer no practical benefit.

There’s been little talk about indoor air quality and updating ventilation systems. But there’s useless hand sanitizer everywhere!

After age, obesity is the biggest risk factor for Covid complications. This would have been the perfect time to get rid of junk food subsidies and promote healthy lifestyles. If the pandemic was worth shutting down the world for, wasn’t it also worth questioning our modern sedentary lifestyle that exacerbated it? Instead, you get a free donut with your vaccine.

Sola fide

I’ve posed a simple question to a lot of people: given that I’m young and have zero risk factors, does Covid pose a greater risk than the AZ vaccine (or the Chinese one)? The retort is usually something about not believing in science or that I’m an anti-vax conspiracy theorist.

I honestly don’t know the answer to my question, nor do I have much hope of getting an answer based on data rather than moralism.

Bad advice

Each time I take the Kyiv metro, I sigh when I see the rule placard telling passengers to wear a mask and gloves plus keep 1.5 meters apart. Of course, wearing a mask is a genuinely good practice.

We know wearing gloves is useless. It’s impossible to keep 1.5 meters apart from people on a crowded rush-hour train. Mixing actual medical advice with useless rules devalues the real advice.

I don’t think people intentionally give bad advice. People want to do something visible (lathering yourself in sanitizer is more visible and cheaper than upgrading ventilation). When health, whether it be sunburn or pandemics, gets tied or moralism, nobody wants to be lax. But we all suffer in this reverse tragedy of the commons — the town commons has been so overfertilized and overgrown that the sheep can’t get onto it.

Lost opportunities

As “science” has become the new moralism for people who don’t go to church, we’re not letting actual science inform public policy. This should have been the wake-up call to build walkable cities, promote healthy lifestyles, re-examine our relationship with the office (this is at least happening in some cases) and put ourselves in the best possible shape to weather the next storm. Instead, we’re edging back to 2019.