There are few things more irritating to medical professionals than people who believe that the internet somehow makes them more informed than the person who spent a decade in school learning medicine. While it is perfectly reasonable to do online research on a condition, if you google your cold symptoms or rash and become convinced that you have the bubonic plague or if you are using your iPhone to suggest possible diagnoses while a doctor is examining you, you need to put it away. The internet is a fabulous resource, but it also shows us that armed with a little bit of information, we can be dangerous.
That being said, I came a little too close to being this person this week. After a routine trip to the Veterinarian, we learned our dog has hookworms. In the ensuing two days, I placed no fewer than five phone calls to the Veterinarian and my kids’ Pediatrician. The first conversation to the vet assured me this was not dangerous, but that it needed to be treated and I needed to take some reasonable precautions to break the cycle. I gave the dog her first treatment. And a phone call to the Pediatrician got me prescriptions for prophylactic treatment for the kids; since they are boys and the weather is nice, they run barefoot through the same areas the worm-infested dog poops, but I’m still not too wound up about the whole thing.
And then I googled hookworm. First of all, they should not include pictures on these sites as the gross factor amplifies one’s response. Reading about worms is all well and good, but once you see what those little suckers look like, all reason goes right out the window. I called the Vet back with questions. When can I be sure they’re all dead? How long do I need to be an obsessive pooper-scooper? Can hookworms live in the dirt? Can chickens get them (because chickens poop everywhere)?
Treatment options for people include one drug, unfortunately it is one very expensive drug. Two pills (yes, pills, for my kids who don’t swallow pills) cost $105. That’s $315, just in case. And while I would happily pay just about anything after seeing the online pictures of the little fuckers, I wanted to be sure it would actually work. More phone calls to the Vet and the Pediatrician with more questions. Can I wait long enough to make sure the dog is free of worms before I treat the kids? I don’t want to be doing this $315 deworming thing more than once.
If I had simply stayed off the internet, I could have treated the dog, treated the kids, and it probably would have worked out fine, but now I am obsessing. I spread an entire container of diatomaceous earth throughout my yard (I’m not sure it kills hookworms, but it won’t hurt). My kids are going to be wearing shoes outside until they’re ready for college. And I walk through my yard looking for poop, as if I might at any moment step on a land mine.
And to think I could have avoided all of this by simply keeping up with the dog’s heartworm meds. Chalk that one up to a lesson learned the hard way.