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It seems that general developmental questions ("at what age should a child be able to do X") are on-topic.

It's also clear that specific medical advice is off-topic ("My child has this and that symptom, what is his illness").

However, I could not find a rule for questions that are a blend of the two:

"At what age is there a cutoff between a certain symptom being 'normal for the age' vs 'abnormal enough for the age that you should see a doctor about it'

(my specific example is bedwetting).

The main distinguishing characteristic of this kind of question is that while an expert level knowledge would be useful in answering it, it is not required - most of the time, the answer can be found by browsing Cochrane or well established medical info repositories or research.

  • Related but not a dupe: meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/473/… – user3143 May 30 '14 at 13:53
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    well established medical info repositories seems to be the answer to me. You distinguish in your answer to your own question against expert-level medical opinion. Are such repositories not expert medical opinion? If the level is such that a doctor's answer is the answer most appropriate, then it is best-suited for a doctor. – Sylas Seabrook May 31 '14 at 3:27
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Persnoally I feel that such questions should be on-topic.

  1. They are very close in spirit to developmental questions. For both, the best expert answer can be provided by pediatrician and the second by someone familiar with research and literature on the topic.

  2. They do not require expert level medical opinion, since they don't deal with specific child's medical condition. The answer would not depend on the individual child nor on professional medical assessment.

  3. As noted, the very distinguishing characteristic of the question is that, most of the time, the answer can be found by browsing Cochrane or well established medical info repositories or research. E.g. they would be fully ontopic on Skeptics.SE if only the basis of the question was a widely held notable belief and not individual parent's need to know.

  • Skeptics doesn't involve the potentiality for someone to suffer dire medical consquences if the advice/reference is incorrect. Doctor's wouldn't spend that amount of $$ on insurance if they could just refer to a website and get off the hook. – Sylas Seabrook May 31 '14 at 3:29
  • I think that 'expert knowledge' is a bit of a more difficult point. First of all, it's not clear to me how much more expert knowledge would be necessary in evaluating what to do with a kid with a rash or a fever, than what to do with a primary schooler with bed wetting issues. Odds are the latter requires the same trip to the doctor; in both cases the question is the same: "Is this normal or should I see a doctor". – Joe Jun 1 '14 at 5:39
  • Second, presence of information in "medical repositories" is not a point in favor of being allowed from my point of view. There's a lot of information, again, on medical conditions in medical repositories, too. This has no bearing on medical condition/not medical condition. – Joe Jun 1 '14 at 5:39
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    I agree with this answer; I don't see a significant difference between At what point should bedwetting be referred to a doctor? and How should we address stuttering in a toddler or Should I be concerned that my toddler doesn't pronounce words. Language issues can be just as indicative of underlying medical issues, and we've had some truly expert-level answers from speech language pathologists. – user420 Jun 2 '14 at 13:43
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I prefer to use the rule, "would I ask this question of an acquaintance at the playground". In general, what this means is that several factors weigh:

  • Severity. If the answer is "No", and you don't see a doctor, and it turns out you probably should have, what are the downsides? If it's significant, then it's medical advice.
  • Urgency. If this is an immediate question where a reasonable answer is "Go see a doctor RIGHT NOW", then it's medical advice. Similarly, if it is a passing condition that will go away (one way or the other) in some short period of time, it is medical advice.
  • Specificity. Is this something that only applies to the one child being asked about, or is it useful for other children?
  • Necessary detail. Is this answerable over the internet in a meaningful sense, or does it require seeing the child or having personal experience with the child to answer?

In the case of the bed wetting question, that sounds reasonable to me, because it's not severe (nobody's going to die), it's not urgent, it's an issue likely to interest many, and it can be asked in such a way that you don't have to make a house call to answer.

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    Our goal for this community is to build a community of experts. As such, I feel that "would I ask this question of an acquaintance at the playground" as a rule for determining whether a question is on-topic is setting the bar much lower than it should be. While we don't expect to have doctors diagnosing conditions, we do have a reasonable expectation of trained childcare professionals participating (e.g. I know we've had multiple Speech Language Pathologists participating, and when they chime in on language development milestones, I consider it a higher benchmark than the playground example) – user420 Jun 2 '14 at 13:28

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