Homeopathy actually helped me make a clinical diagnosis!

In clinic I recently treated a 30 something female.  The patient had an entrance complaint of a “sore throat”.  More specifically, she informed me that she thought she had “Strep Throat” and therefore required antibiotics.

As is the practice of any good practitioner, after hearing the patient’s entrance complaint I took a thorough health history and performed a focused physical exam. 

The only significant detail in the patient’s health history was that both her children had been recently diagnosed (you will understand the use of the italics in a moment) with strep throat and were being treated with antibiotics (again, italics will become clear).  The patient described her children’s symptoms, which did not sound like strep throat to me, but being that I did not actually assess the children I thought nothing more of it at the time.  Other than the above information, the patient’s health history did not reveal anything of interest/suspicion.  In fact, the patient’s history pointed rather clearly to a viral upper respiratory tract infection instead of streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat). 

The patient’s physical exam was also normal; no hallmarks of streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat) were present.  More specifically, there was a complete absence of fever, excudate at the back of the throat, inflamed tonsils, or abnormal/enlarged lymph nodes.  Based on the information obtained from the health history and physical exam, I came to the conclusion that the patient was not suffering from streptococcal pharyngitis, but instead a viral upper respiratory tract infection (VURTI). 

As you may or may not know, a VURTI is a self limiting disease that does not typically require any sort of medical intervention, and most certainly does not require the use of antibiotics (as the pathogen causing the illness is a virus and not a bacteria, thus rendering antibiotics ineffective).

I informed the patient of my findings, or lack thereof, explaining that she most likely had a VURTI.  I then advised her that she would not require antibiotics (as they would be ineffective in treating a viral infection) and that her best course of action was to go home, get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids, and practice good hand hygiene (in order to decrease the spread of the viral infection that she had).  I also offered to obtain a throat swab/culture in order to confirm my diagnosis of a VURTI (by ruling out the presence of a bacterial pharyngitis).

To my surprise the patient was rather unhappy with this diagnosis and treatment plan.  She actually began to get rather upset with me, telling me that I “did not know what [I] was talking about”, and that if I would not given her antibiotics she would get her children’s “doctor” to give her some.

At this point I inquired about the name of the children’s paediatrician (on the off chance I knew him/her).  The patient stated a name that I was not familiar with.  I proceeded to ask what clinic this physician worked out of.  The patient gave me an address that was also unfamiliar.  I informed the patient that I was not aware of any paediatric practice at that address.  The patient then explained that she had not taken her children to a paediatrician, but to a homeopath.

My jaw nearly hit the floor (hence the italics).

I then naturally inquired about the antibiotics that the patient’s children where on, and learned that said antibiotics were in fact a homeopathic preparation.  Further questioning revealed that the children had taken the homeopathic preparation for 8 days, by which time their symptoms subsided.  Though I did not say it at the time, the fact that 8 days is about the amount of time it takes a self-limiting viral infection to subside came to mind.

Taking the above into account, along with the “mechanism of action of homeopathy” (it is beyond the scope of this entry to get into the “mechanism of action of homeopathy”, but for the sake of this blog entry we will leave it at this: it is effectively water), I came to the conclusion that the patient’s children did not actually have streptococcal pharyngitis, nor had they ever had it.  If the patient’s children had indeed contracted streptococcal pharyngitis and been treated with a homeopathic preparation, one would expect the child to get worse and not better.  Why?  Because the condition of a patient with streptococcal pharyngitis will typically worsen if left untreated, and the homeopathic preparation received by the patient’s children is /was essentially the same as receiving no treatment at all.  Seeing as the patient’s children’s symptoms resolved “without treatment”, it is appropriate to postulate that the children never had streptococcal pharyngitis, but instead had a self limiting VURTI that simply resolved on its own.  

Sadly I did not get the opportunity to sit with the patient and attempt to explain all of this, as she was upset that I would not give her a prescription for antibiotics and left the clinic after I obtained her throat swab.  Which, in case you were wondering, came back negative for streptococcal pharyngitis.

So, in an unanticipated way, Homeopathy actually helped me make a clinical diagnosis!

Perhaps I should write the homeopathic Doctor a letter of thanks…you know, as a professional courtesy.



2 Responses to “Homeopathy actually helped me make a clinical diagnosis!”

  1. Actually I think you should…

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Is your comment intended to be sarcastic/humorous or supportive? I am unable to tell from the context of your message/comment…

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