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Lagos University Teaching Hospital not source of viral WhatsApp message on women’s health

Photo Credit: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine 4 mins read

Claim: A WhatsApp message that has been forwarded many times purportedly from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) contains several claims about things that are dangerous for women’s health.

This message is false and misleading; LUTH did not author or authorise the message, while medical experts disagree with some of the claims in the message.

Full Text

Teaching hospitals deliver superior health care to patients due to their pools of medical experts, premium diagnostic machines, and links to medical schools. Citizens take medical advice coming from teaching hospitals seriously and with regard.

A viral social media message that has been forwarded many times on WhatsApp with the heading “MESSAGE FROM LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL (LUTH)” claims that 56 girls died because they used certain brands of sanitary pads. The message also cautioned women against several actions that are alleged to be responsible for different forms of cancer. The message was concluded by urging recipients to share it with both men and women, and in “at least one group.”

A screenshot of the WhatsApp message

Verification

Dubawa did a first level analysis of the message and discovered a serious technical inconsistency. There are two government-owned teaching hospitals in Lagos State; one is the federal owned Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) affiliated with the University of Lagos, while the second is Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), which is affiliated with Lagos State University. The heading, however, said the message is from “Lagos State University Teaching Hospital” which is LASUTH but wrote the acronym as “LUTH.” 

Official Reaction

As LUTH was highlighted as the source of the message, Dubawa reached out to LUTH and a representative of the organisation, Dr. Wasiu Adeyemo told Dubawa that the message “is not from LUTH” and that it “had been in circulation for years.” 

Professional Reaction

As the viral message contains various claims about women’s health, Dubawa reached out to two Consultant Gynaecologists to comment on the significant claims in the message.

Women should avoid washing their privates parts with soap

Dr. Fatimat Rabiu, a Consultant Gynaecologist and MD/CEO of Shifa Medical Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, said women can wash their private parts with mild soaps, and they should “use a thin layer mildly on their palms and then use their palms to wash the area.” She said the scrubbing of the soap physically on their privates is a no-no, and that “women’s vaginas have a natural flora and microorganisms that normally protect the area and using medicated soaps and harsh chemicals will affect or destroy those microorganisms.”

The chemicals used in making sanitary pads turn liquids into gels and cause bladder and uterine cancer if women do not change the pads on time

A Consultant Gynaecologist and former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Randle General Hospital, Lagos State, Nigeria, Dr. Kunle Oni, told Dubawa that there are authorities who approve sanitary pads before they are released into the market and “no responsible government will approve the distribution of pads if there is any indication that they can harm women.” 

Dr. Rabiu agreed with Dr. Oni, adding that women should however change their sanitary towels after a maximum of five hours, whether they are soaked or not, for hygiene and health purposes.

Women should not wear black bras in summer

Dr. Oni mentioned that there is no medical evidence that wearing black bras in summer has any negative effects on women’s health and that the colours of the briefs that women wear do not have medical implications. 

Dr. Rabiu holds the same opinion, but added that there are assumptions that some people find it comfortable to wear black bras for days without washing them. She encouraged women to be very neat with their underwear but asserted that the colour of a bra alone, without any other factor, cannot harm a woman’s health.

Women should not cover their chests completely if they are under the sun

Dr. Oni said that this assumption has not been medically tested. He mentioned that there are no known components that are unique to women’s chests to require women not to expose their chests when they are under the sun.

In the opinion of Dr. Rabiu, while women should generally not expose themselves to scorching sun, there is no special damage caused by the chest being exposed to the sun. In her words, “the early morning sun is even good for people, especially children, due to its Vitamin D components.”

Antiperspirants are dangerous to health, compared to deodorants

Dr. Rabiu is of the view that there are no significant differences in both antiperspirants and deodorants. She believes that women should maintain good hygiene to reduce the use of both and that they should not use it to replace the need for regular baths. Dr. Rabiu also suggests that women should wear deodorants and antiperspirants on their clothes rather than on their skins or chests.

In her words, “the only major difference between the two is that aluminium is added to antiperspirants to reduce sweat production in addition to removing odour, while deodorants just remove odours alone. The aluminium added has not been medically proven to cause any harmful effects.”

Conclusion

The claim of the viral WhatsApp message as originating from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) is false and misleading. The teaching hospital did not author the message. Medical experts have also disagreed with some of the claims in the message.

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