Many of the other SE sites seem to avoid/discourage certain topics for liability reasons. Examples that come to mind: photos-SE follows the IANAL approach when folks ask for guidance with contract law and copyright issues; diy-SE routinely says "this is very dangerous, you should contact a professional electrician, mould removal specialist, asbestos abatement company, etc."

I just noticed a question about vaccinations that seems like it's heading square into the realm of medical advice that I think we probably need to leave to the actual licensed MDs.

(I voted close/subjective and argumentative on it for a different reason, that topic has virtually become a religious war lately, there's no way we're going to "answer" it here. And just having it around is going to taint the opinion of a lot of potential users, no matter what "the community" says.)

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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

We should not give medical advice.

We should feel comfortable linking to studies and articles we know of so that others can come to their own conclusions, and relating our personal experiences/observations.

Examples:

Off-topic

"What are the best ADHD medications for a 7yo who is very out of control in school?"

[In response to a question on a child's sleep routine] "Clearly your child has a thyroid disorder. Get her on medication right away!"

On-topic

"My child just started on $medication for ADHD, and it's worked better than anything else we've tried. However, if we can't help him to cope with the loss of appetite that comes with it, we may have to go back to his previous (far less effective) medication. What are some ways to help my child eat a healthy diet despite his lackluster appetite? If your child has overcome loss of appetite on $medication, how did you do it?"

[In response to a question on behavior problems while clothes shopping] "Since your child only acts up in stores that sell textile products, you should consider talking to your doctor about a chemical sensitivity to aldehydes. New textiles in the US are coated in formaldehyde or one of its cousins to prevent dry rot and insect infestation. Aldehydes are a common source of allergy or sensitivity reactions, and young children don't always realize why they feel yucky all of a sudden. It's only one possibility, but given that the problem seems unique to clothing stores, it is worth a look."

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Like anything else you read on the internet, there is a degree of responsibility and caution that falls on both the askers and the answerers. Don't ask us if it is okay for you child to skip vaccinations because you read some report somewhere.

Even when some is asking for recommendations — best practices or common solutions — please remember the "Back it Up! Principle".

It sounds trite to constantly hear "Talk to your doctor", but sometimes, it is the only advice. At the same time, folks answering questions shouldn't throw around wild generalities when the parent has not provided sufficient information.

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  • I think we definitely shouldn't be answering medical questions, tentatively defined as "questions it would be natural to ask a medical expert."
  • I think we can answer questions relating to medical effects on our lives. That's relevant to how we live and how we parent; that's on-topic.
  • I think we can also provide answers suggesting that a non-medical problem may have an unsuspected medical component. That happens; it's not even infrequent; it might be a good answer. I'd be concerned about "perceived authority" of claiming medical knowledge, or scaring people into unnecessary hypochondria, but I don't see a good way around that except on a per-case basis.

In general, if an answer might be taken as medical advice, there should be an in-text proviso. And medical advice should not be solicited.

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