What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Three Health Misconceptions Harming the Black Community

The popular phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” dates back centuries. This statement often feels liberating, and many of us find ourselves echoing its sentiment. However, the inconvenient truth is that what you don’t know can hurt you – and others, too.

For centuries, lives have been destroyed by those who accept this appealing yet devastating phrase. When you examine the expression, you will find the hidden dangers caused by neglect, lack of accountability and personal and social avoidance. In fact, when it comes to the black community, we often receive incorrect information that has detrimental effects on our health, leading to sickness, disease and even death.

There are numerous misconceptions gripping the black community and hurting our health. Here are three common ones.

Misconception #1: “The flu shot gives you the flu.”

“Say NO to the flu shot!” one lady chants. “They’re injecting a live virus in you, and it’s going to kill you.” Wrong.

The truth is, the flu vaccine stimulates your immune system to create antibodies that will fight off the actual virus. It does not contain any live virus, so those who administer it are NOT giving you the flu.

This production of antibodies normally takes 10-14 days. During this period, and oftentimes immediately after the vaccination, a person may experience achiness or cold-like symptoms. This is not because they were given the virus, but because their body is naturally warring against the vaccine to produce the necessary antibodies as a shield against the flu virus.

Misconception #2: “Black people don’t need sunscreen because they’re immune to skin cancer.”

Food for thought: the sun doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t know, nor does it care, if you are black or white. The sun has a huge responsibility to carry out day to day and the color of your skin will not lessen its mission. Therefore, black people DO need sunscreen!

Research suggests that many patients and physicians believe that non-white people are “immune” to common skin cancers. They are not. This myth may have come from the statistic that the black community has a lower incidence of skin cancer. While this is true, what’s left out of the conversation is the fact that black folks who do develop skin cancer are also more likely to receive a late-stage prognosis. Approximately 52 percent of black individuals who get diagnosed with melanoma receive their diagnosis at a late and more fatal stage.

Astounding enough, black people are also more susceptible to one of the deadliest kinds of skin cancer: acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), This form of skin cancer, also known as ALM, was found to be the cause of death for legendary singer Bob Marley.  The truth is, we have been graced with a natural SPF-13, but it’s no match for the sun. Melanin is cool when it’s coated, so wear your sunscreen.

Misconception #3: “Black people don’t get lice.”

While infestation with head lice is much less common among African Americans than among persons of other races, black people can get lice. Therefore, all children should receive routine check-ups. By the way, head lice cannot jump or fly so there is no need to get jumpy – but they can crawl, so just be careful where you lay your head.

For years, many of us have bought into the concept that what we don’t know can’t hurt us, somehow convincing ourselves that there are things in life that we are better off not knowing.  From missing routine check-ups, to ignoring small nodules on the breast, to excusing an inability to urinate, to ignoring the headache that just won’t go away… most of us have chosen to overlook potentially harmful things. But what if what we don’t know is actually hurting us? Remaining ignorant or uninformed about something will never negate its truth or subsequent consequences. The scripture is clear:  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).  It’s time to face reality. What you don’t know can hurt you – and others, too. Get in the know, your life depends on it. Join us at the 26th Annual Health Expo for free health screenings, demonstrations and educational resources that will arm you with the information needed to make informed decisions about your health.

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