Community: Real Life

Daily health scares

Emily Ray

Emily is a gap year student working as a freelance writer (for which read unemployed) and waiting for the Doctors TARDIS to take her to the 1920s. She hopes to eventually make a living from writing and move into a country house to adopt ginger cats.

If you enjoy having a life free of neurosis, I would encourage you to look away now. Still reading?

OK, don't blame me if you have a terminal illness by the time you've finished reading this. According to the media, virtually everything carries a risk of some form of disease. A good old hot British cup of tea? The humble rubber duck? They may seem innocent, but they can, allegedly, increase your risk of cancer. I'm sick of picking up a newspaper to find a list of things I should avoid. Most of these warnings are sourced from unfounded research and just aim to scare the general public, turning us into nervous wrecks.

The list of things to avoid also includes deodorant, lipstick, plastic bottles, tinfoil hats (I'd so been looking forward to buying one of those too) and computers.  You start to think you'd prefer to watch paint dry than listen to any more health scares, but think again: the smell of paint can, allegedly, increase your risk of lung cancer by 20%.

Notice that I include 'allegedly' several times amongst these warnings. Most of these links between everyday objects and illnesses are incredibly tenuous. Research is often in its early stages when the media grabs hold of it and uses it to tell us humanity is about to die out. We all know the effects of excessive drinking and smoking. This has been proven through many years of tests and examinations. Yet I hardly think the excessive use of a rubber duck is enough to constitute a massive health scare.

"Barmy ideas from the 18th century can now be looked on as ridiculous fabrications. I'm willing to bet in another few hundred years they will all be laughing at us and many of our health scares."

The reporting of health in the media can have a positive effect; the coverage of Jade Goody's death educated many in the inspiring work of hospices. But all we can do is educate ourselves with the necessities: it's common sense to eat healthily and to not play in roads, but to actively avoid something we enjoy - such as a cup of tea - due to the 'slight' risk it 'may' lead to cancer at some point is just ludicrous. Is the media intent on ruining our lives?

Health scares in the media have been around for years. They're usually followed by tips on how to dodge the latest viral infection and escape death. If you're ever struck down by an ulcer, scabs, itching or a tumour, don't worry Dr. Richard Russell found a cure in the 18th century! He claimed that drinking up to a pint of sea water a day could cure many illnesses. What's more, mixing crab eyes, woodlice and snails into the seawater would be even better! I don't know what beach he went to, but drinking any seawater today would probably be more likely to contaminate you with a disease. Thankfully, such barmy ideas during the 18th century can now be looked on as ridiculous fabrications. I'm willing to bet in another few hundred years they will all be laughing at us and many of our health scares.

So, would you rather live a half-life to the full or a long life full of fear? Abraham Lincoln once said: "it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." As a result, I encourage you to break the confines of your house to embrace life, along with all the health risks it poses. Just try to avoid people with swine flu.

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Updated: 04/08/2009

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