Two paediatricians have started a website to give parents the answers to their children’s medical issues.
Your child is showing the first signs of sickness, like a stomachache or fever. At which point do you decide to take him to the clinic?
For some parents, the answer would be “right away”. Others, however, prefer to wait it out to see if the symptoms would go away in time.
According to consultant paediatricians Dr Zahilah Filzah Zulkifli and Dr Foo Chee Hoe, that delay in seeking treatment could sometimes be fatal. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to dealing with children’s health.
With this in mind, the two doctors created DoktorBudak.com, a blog-turned-website offering free medical advice on child health.
Launched in July last year, Doktor Budak operates mainly on a question-and-answer platform, but also publishes periodic articles on trending medical topics. Parents can post their concerns on the bi-lingual (Malay and English) site, which is currently backed by medical practitioners who work with children.
DoktorBudak.com recently revealed a brand new look, complete with enhanced user experience, to support the site’s steadily-increasing traffic.
While Doktor Budak is known for its problem-solution feature, the site’s main aim is really to encourage more parents to seek early medical attention for their children.
“I’ve seen parents who will bring their sick child in days, sometimes weeks, after the child experiences the first medical symptom. By then, the child would already have complications that could have been prevented in the first place, if the parents were more knowledgeable on the subject,” says Zahilah, 35, who is based in a government hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Zalihah cites cases of vomiting and diarrhoea in children; some parents would wait to see if the symptoms persist before bringing the child in for a doctor’s consultation.
She says parents should start administering over-the-counter oral rehydration salts to the child from the get-go and monitor for signs of improvement. If left untreated, dehydration, caused by diarrhoea, has serious implications which could lead to the death of a child.
“It’s heartbreaking to see children being brought in for a simple medical condition that has advanced to a dangerous stage because of a lack of early intervention,” Zahilah adds.
Zahilah was first inspired to start up a medical blog after receiving positive feedback on a vaccination article she wrote for Barelysupermommy.com, a blog run by Dr Harlina Yusof, Malaysia’s first astronaut, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha’s wife.
“The story was shared many times over and generated over 500 comments. From there, I realised there were many people who are still in the dark on certain medical issues. That was what really kick-started the Doktor Budak project,” Zahilah reveals.
The Doktor Budak team has since registered as a non-governmental organisation known as Malaysian Advocates for Child Health.
DoktorBudak.com is considered the organisation’s first outreach programme, and is currently managed by 25 volunteers, consisting of paediatricians, dentists, a child and adolescent psychologist, a speech-language pathologist, surgeons, nutritionists and pharmacists.
Foo, 33, who is based at Hospital Sungai Long in Selangor, says that unlike most Britain-or US-based medical websites (some that charge a consultation fee for advice), Doktor Budak customises its content to include suggestions and topics that the average Malaysian parent can relate to.
“You can find medical advice anywhere on the web these days but they are almost always foreign content, and may not necessarily be right for someone who is living in Asia or Malaysia. At Doktor Budak, we like using layman terms as it helps our audience understand the situation that they are in,” he says.
The team now receives up to 20 queries a day, which can be a challenge to address in real-time in light of their day jobs.
“We always try our best to answer the questions as fast as we can but sometimes it can still take up to a week for us to reply. We don’t normally entertain emergency situations. Still, we’ll get questions that fall into that category from time to time. And as doctors, we can’t just ignore them so we’ll attend to those on-the-spot and urge them to seek immediate medical help from the nearest hospital,” says Zahilah.
In fact, Doktor Budak signs off most queries with an advice to seek consultation from a qualified medical practitioner.
While Doktor Budak may be a convenient go-to guide filled with A-to-Z answers on child health, it is never meant to be a self-diagnosing tool via the web.
“Doktor Budak is no substitute to consulting a doctor face-to-face. Our role is to help parents understand what the possibilities are in the presence of a medical symptom so that they know where to seek help from, and when.
“We’re here to assure over-anxious parents, and urge the more dismissive ones into action. It is our hope to see that more parents and adults are well-informed on child health so that they can better care for the young ones,” says Foo.
> The Doktor Budak team will be making a guest appearance on Sept 6 and 7 at the Urban Mom event happening at Ground Floor, Highstreet, 1 Utama Shopping Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. More information at www.facebook.com/Doktorbudak