In response to the close votes on this question, the OP states that he is asking for home remedies. As an aside, that specific request is not in the question, so I am not asking about that question in particular.

The question on home remedies, though, I believe is valid and not necessarily medical in that a doctor should/must treat the illness -- there are many herbal or other non-medical-diagnosis-required treatments, so, should home remedy "medical questions" be allowed?

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    I meant to meta this myself, actually, but you got there first :)
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 2:31
  • If I restate the question as "What are parents' experiences of leaving MC untreated?" then does it become acceptable?
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 9:50
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    I cast the last reopen vote. I think @AE did a good job editing to get it on topic. Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 13:48
  • Thanks Karl! :)
    – A E
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 15:09
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    Yep - the current question as stands looks exactly like it should to me!
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 22:53

5 Answers 5


I don't equate medical with physician visit/prescription. I posit that asking about home remedies is asking for medical advice, specifically seeking:

  • a way to avoid a visit to a professional ("do we need to see a doctor for [list of symptoms]?")
  • an alternative to the advice of a professional

The reasons for seeking a home remedy might be

  • financial (I can't afford the doctor's visit or prescription)
  • religious belief
  • personal feeling ("just doesn't seem right")
  • dislike or inconvenience ("the medication does not have the effect I want" or "this side effect is occurring")
  • the ailment is quite minor and doesn't need "professional" intervention

And a lot of those reasons are quite valid and parents constantly rely on the last one in particular. I certainly don't rush to the urgent care clinic for every sniffle or scraped knee.

However, I'd still say that a child who's scraped their knee has a "medical problem," even though it's something I am capable of handling with soap, water, a bandage, and a kiss. "Specific medical issues" have been declared off-topic, and I do not understand why exceptions should be made because "the treatment is herbal" or "I want to know if I can take care of this at home".

This meta Answer has phrasing which I think is relevant (emphasis mine):

Medical questions should solicit advice from a parent's point of view, requiring no professional expertise, and should not seek to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

Admittedly that's just in meta, not codified on a help page anywhere.

  • +1 I really like your analysis. Before reading it, I leaned the other way. But there's also a liability issue. Scraped knee? Herbal remedy? But it wasn't just that... it was more than we could see and turned into gangrene... not good for anyone! Of course, this is not always the case, but it only takes one such case for it to be a legal case for SE! Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 2:47
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    Liability issue applies just as much to weaning or home safety. Bad advice on either of those could lead to a fatal outcome (e.g. choking on nuts, electrocution).
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 8:59
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    For what it's worth, I'm more concerned about "responsibility" than "liability" (although I avoided both terms in my answer here). Personally I'd rather give anybody advice about anything, but I also know (from experience on other sites) that there is a lot of really bad advice about health out there and I don't like imagining people relying on it to their (or their kids') possible detriment.
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 14:27
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    @Erica: IMO a good answer on this type of thing would include a link to an authoritative source, e.g. the NHS, the Red Cross First Aid manual, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, RoSPA, etc.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 16:35
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    I agree that citation of an authoritative source would make an answer good, but it doesn't preclude bad answers from happening and staying around being visible. Should moderation aggressively delete "my granny always used turpentine on ticks" if it doesn't cite the NHS, rather than relying on downvoting (from a pool of users who don't necessarily know the intricacies of the home remedy policy or whether turpentine is, in fact, a valid treatment)?
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:11
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    @Erica: yes, I think it should. Better to moderate-out bad answers than to moderate-out reasonable questions because of worry that they might attract bad answers.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 19:09
  • Do you have double blind study showing statistical significance of using kisses to treat scraped knees? </skeptics.SE>
    – user3143
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 21:21
  • @user3143 ha! You got me, the effectiveness of mommy kisses is purely anecdotal... but the kids demand them anyway :D
    – Acire
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 21:28

As one of the closers, this isn't really a "legal" thing, it's a "responsibility" thing. Medical advice on the internet falls into two camps: stuff you can find on the NHS website (well researched, official), and stuff you can only find on forums (anecdotal, occasionally actively harmful).

To use your example, if you ask a parent who's used tea-tree oil and then the spots eventually cleared up, that could be entirely arbitrary, based on the fact that Molluscum Contagiousum naturally clears up. But their response will merely be based on their own experience.

The real question is what are you hoping to get from us that you can't get from a doctor or an official medical site? Because frankly, if tea-tree oil was a valid alternative that caused less pain, the doctor would be prescribing that instead. My guess would be that the gel actually uses the active ingredient found in tea-tree oil, just at a higher concentration (more pain/faster clear up), but that is literally a guess. For all I know, tea-tree oil is pure placebo, and that kind of issue is why I generally flag to close these questions.

It's not that "if you don't like them, you can avoid answering them", it's where people love answering these, but give very bad advice. Just because the ailment's minor, doesn't mean that the "treatment" is.

My suggestion would be to add a link to an official site like http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Molluscum-contagiosum/Pages/Introduction.aspx when flagging these questions.

I didn't in this case, because you've already been to a doctor, who prescribed actual medicine. If you're asking for a second opinion to override an actual doctor, that's something you should discuss with a doctor. Note that this isn't limited to medical information, we don't do legal discussions beyond the real basics on StackExchange sites either.

The main reason is that your doctor has a lot more contextual information. He knows your child's medical history, he probably knows aspects of yours, in general he'll have more experience with this condition in the past.

I personally think the line is drawn about right. The key flags for this particular question were:

  • Latin Name: Suggests either you've already seen a doctor, or you've self-diagnosed via the internet
  • "treat": There's a fundamental difference between "treat", and similar words like "cope", "live with", or "deal with"
  • The fact that you're asking for "alternative treatments" to "actual prescribed medicine". I'm innately distrustful of such treatments, precisely because there are generally good reasons such treatments aren't used in place of actual medicine. At the very least, I want those treatments to have been discussed with a medical professional before recommending them.
    • This is a hot topic, but the easiest way to avoid having a huge argument about why "Granny's Famous Boiled Gin and Goatweed Treatment" is not a valid replacement for actual evidence-based medicine is to close these kind of questions.
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    "Latin Name: Suggests either you've already seen a doctor, or you've self-diagnosed via the internet" - yeah, I thought that my use of the latin name might be scaring people off. The reason I'm using the latin name is that I don't know any other name for this particular condition. Round here we don't have a vernacular name for it (that I know of). If you follow the link that I originally put in the question, you'll see that it is the same link as the NHS link that you're suggesting. To me this question is the equivalent of "how best to sooth chicken pox?" - not a medical second opinion.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 9:45
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    Also, I'm not looking for a recommendation of "Granny's Famous Boiled Gin and Goatweed Treatment" (fun though that sounds - can the parent drink it?), and definitely not homeopathy. Ideal answer would be a link to a study showing that painless-and-harmless-treatment-A has some (perhaps limited) merit in treatment of the condition.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 9:49
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    So I guess I'm asking "Does anyone know of well-researched evidence-based information about painless and harmless remedies for MC, even if they are less effective than the prescription-medication alternative?" - and also asking for parents' experiences of just leaving it untreated.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 9:56
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    @AE Sure, but I think if you go for the first, it's off-topic for this site, it's really a medical question not a parenting question. The second would be probably on topic.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 20:52
  • @AE Obviously late in the day, but the place for the former question is skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/medical-science
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:06

(I started this as a comment to deword's excellent answer, but when it started to spill over into the third comment, I thought I'd better post as an answer. If this isn't correct, please let me know.)

This is a great answer. I also believe, however, that A E makes a good case for his position.

Addressing this statement: Because frankly, if tea-tree oil was a valid alternative that caused less pain, the doctor would be prescribing that instead. Here is why I disagree with this.

Things to keep in mind when suggesting going to a doctor (e.g. for pretty benign conditions):

  • All doctors see a problem for the first time. A first timer's advice (though ideally it should be) is possibly not as valuable as a doctor who has seen/treated/observed the treatment effects of multiple cases, and might not be as valuable even as a parent who's been through the process with multiple kids.
  • Allopathic docs are not trained in naturopathic medicine (note: not homeopathic), so will not be familiar with that approach, even when it's effective except in very common problems (e.g. menopause, migraines). Even then, the majority of docs will favor a familiar allopathic approach to a less familiar naturopathic approach.
  • Drug companies have little to gain from naturopathic approaches, so avoid them. This bias is unfortunately represented in medical literature about treatments.
  • Naturopathic remedies are not extensively tested for evidence based results because such studies are too expensive (i.e. no drug money behind them), so there's less "concrete evidence" to support their use, which does not mean that they're necessarily less effective.

It's not that "if you don't like them, you can avoid answering them", it's where people love answering these, but give very bad advice. Just because the ailment's minor, doesn't mean that the "treatment" is.

This is a great insight. However, I've twice seen really bad advice dispensed here by users with dangerous biases; the first time, I tried to combat it in comments (which were subsequently deleted as argumentative); the second time I just gritted my teeth (shameless plug for another SE site), because a some doctors who don't know better have given the same advice.

Doctors aren't specialists in every field. Dermatologists know much more about the treatment of skin conditions than your average Generalist. Dermatologists know much less than the average Generalist about treatment of Irritable Bowel Disease. The advantages of each are different. A Generalist should be regarded as a very competent "gateway" physician: a doctor who can treat common problems well but who can recognize the problems that should be referred to specialists on emergent and routine bases.*

I agree with A E about the Latin name. I don't know a common name for molluscum contagiosum either. (Most people describe them as white bumps. Doctors sometimes describe them as pearly papules. I've never heard of a common name, and can't find one on a quick search, either.) My guess is that Latin names shouldn't be a screening screening criteria for whether a question is asking for medical advice.

If any of the above is helpful to the discussion of closing as off-topic for medical reasons, I'm very happy. I would like to add my $.02 cents about comments here on questions closed as OT for the above.

If the concern is about liability or quality of advice, I think comments shouldn't be made on such questions because sometimes bad advice (granted, this is only my opinion on the quality of the advice) is given in comments as well. A mod, or whoever closes, can leave a helpful comment which , e.g. can encourage the reader to seek medical advice, or link to an outside source, or encourage the OP, if new, to return here for other types of questions. I've done that. I also admit that when I felt strongly, I've given advice in a comment or even answered a question when I felt it was really important to do so. (Both those questions appear to have been deleted.)

Anyway, that's my take on this, and I don't mean to throw my opinion around as being more valuable than anyone else's, so if I come across that way, please forgive me. It's just an alternate viewpoint. And I'm sorry it's so long. :(

*This is why Family Medicine was conceived as a specialty: many of the older GP's in the US were not as competent as they needed to be. In the US, anyone with an MD and a year's training consisting of a rotating internship can hang a shingle. Nowadays, the old idea of a GP is gone, and has been replaced with Primary Care Physician which requires more training than the GPs of previous decades. FP's need at least three years of hospital and clinic based supervised training with a minimum number of rotations in specialty areas. Many FPs take up to two years of additional specialty training: e.g. Obstetrics, Emergency Medicine, Surgery, etc. I won't bore you with further details of why FPs are better qualified to treat many patients than Generalists. I have biases as well as the next person. :)

Naturopathic Medicine
Allopathic Medicine
Homeopathic Medicine

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    The medical perspective is appreciated :D
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 20:07
  • Good points, especially regarding naturopathic approaches, and good reasons why medical questions should be allowed on this site.
    – Warren Dew
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 5:02

As Erica pointed out, the last time a similar question was asked, the agreed policy was left as:

Medical questions should solicit advice from a parent's point of view, requiring no professional expertise, and should not seek to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

I closed the given question primarily because it was seeking to treat a disease. Our medical questions that get accepted tend to be more along the lines of what to expect, how to calm a child during a shot, how to help an itchy child sleep, that sort of thing. In other words, dealing primarily with parenting rather than doctoring.

My answer for that question would be for him to ask his additional questions to the doctor. There's more than one way to treat most diseases, and just because one was painful doesn't mean they all are. Also, a doctor is most aware of what the possible side effects of leaving it untreated are.

My rule of thumb is that if the bulk of my answer would be explaining why he should ask a doctor, that's a good sign it's off topic. If the bulk of my answer would instead be explaining what he should ask a doctor, that's where it starts getting on topic.

Also, my understanding for the reason we avoid questions about treating a disease is to avoid liability from someone who gets injured from a suggestion like duct taping over it. Home remedies are certainly not immune to that sort of liability problem. In fact, quite the opposite. Doctors are also the right people to ask about home remedies. They should be aware of which ones are most effective with the least side effects, and which ones are total wives tales, or even harmful.

  • Thank you! I really appreciate the explanation in the paragraph after the citation -- gives it a lot of depth. Given the almost perpendicular view of Doctor-prescribed vs homeopathic medicine, it may warrant a slight change in the phrasing of "Medical questions", but in that case this meta question is not the proper venue. +1 for such a well-put explanation. (I added the liability phrasing to my comment on Erica's post, too [earlier]). Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 3:20

Thanks for opening this in meta, Jeremy.

I've amended the question to make it clearer that I'm not seeking medical advice, but rather experience from other parents who have dealt with the same issue.

I think we should be open to questions about first aid and minor childhood ailments, e.g. the scraped knee that Erica gives as an example.

I don't see any greater legal liability with those than with questions about diet or home safety (for example), which could also lead to unfortunate consequences if the wrong advice were given (worst case: fatal e.g. choking on nuts, electrocution).


I'm not familiar with the SE way of doing things, but should it really be for us to try to guess what kind of issues might lead to problems with legal liability? Given that we're not lawyers.

Doesn't SE have standard legal advice or policy on that? I'd kind of expect them to, in the same way that Wikipedia does.

To make the comparison with the DIY SE site: my understanding is that they consider some issues to be too dangerous for the amateur to undertake without professional assistance (I'm guessing mainly electricity and gas) but they don't refuse to respond to any question involving a hammer in case someone bangs their finger.


  • I'm not sure that there's all that much legal merit in the idea that all health issues (including minor ailments and first aid) are uniquely subject to liability problems. It would be better to have a lawyer's assessment rather than just guesses from all us non-lawyers.

  • I agree that there are some issues (such as diagnosis of serious medical problems) which we should not be trying to give advice on - but I think that the line is currently being drawn in the wrong place. I don't think that minor childhood ailments and first aid need be barred.

  • Nobody is forced to respond to a question if they don't feel happy doing so. If some people want to steer clear of bumps, scrapes and minor ailments then that's their privilege.

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    I think there's an overemphasis on "liability" in several answers here. We're not lawyers (well, most of us, anyway!), and its an international audience, so any discussion of what is or is not a liability concern is going to be rather fruitless. Instead, however, I see it as a responsibility concern. Medical advice, no matter how seemingly trivial the issue (e.g. skinned knee), is simply not our target expertise, beyond identifying when to consult a trained medical professional. Any advice implying "you don't need a doctor, because this works just as well" is potentially irresponsible.
    – user420
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 13:32
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    @Beofett: "Medical advice, no matter how seemingly trivial the issue (e.g. skinned knee), is simply not our target expertise" - I don't know about that. Basic first aid and childhood ailments are part of parenting, IMO. I'm sure I'm not the only person here with a first aid qualification. The usual provisos about linking to an authoritative source would apply. I'm not seeing how or why it's irresponsible to explain to someone what to do about a skinned knee, with a link to an authoritative source such as this.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 16:33

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