Walang Pasma! – Stop patients (and doctors) from spreading the old myth

Zero MD, East Bajac Bajac Health Center – I have, for a very long time, heard this term “pasma” frequently from old doctors. I do not try and correct them. It’s their style and it works. And until recently, I have learned that some actually teach them to new students of medicine. “Wag nyu po paliguan yung bata baka mapasma,” mused one newly graduate. (Translation: Don’t bathe the child, he might have ‘pasma.’) Its nice to know Filipino folk beliefs but they need to die a very fast death.

We are now living  in the new millenium with fast-paced technology giving us access to a wealth of information. The trend is evidence-based medicine. Cold water or cold air cannot by itself cause sickness. Some doctors teach that cold temperatures decreases the activity of the immune systems. This may only be true in extreme temperatures but cold water from the fridge or cold air from the aircon cannot produce sickness on their own. Infection causes sickness. You can get infection from a virulent organism such as a virus, protozoan, or bacteria from another person, environment or a vector. This is infectious disease 101.

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The only reason the child suddenly has a fever after taking a bath is due to the fact that it is easier to perceive febrile skin after it becomes cool due to evaporated water. Water or in simple chemical terms, H2O, is a simple molecule that is very important to our well-being. Please do not restrict your patients from it (with exception to  renal cases where water intake is closely monitored).

Only recently, a patient of mine, 16 year-old female was attributing his illness to increased perspiration of the legs. She ascribed ‘pasma’ as the leading cause of her ailments: principally cough, coryza and fever. They abhorred  my explanation that pasma is nonexistent and that she has an Acute Nasopharyngitis probably due to a bacterial infection. They took my prescription but was not impressed with me.

This has to stop. Please stop using pasma and agreeing with patients regarding this folklore. The rest of the  medical world is moving ahead and disregarding the ‘pasma’ explanation. There is no such thing. If you are one of the Filipino doctors who believe in it, either you put up an evidence for all the world to see or shut up because you are doing more harm than good. Sure, the patient will be impressed with you but you are making idiots out of your patient. Let me emphasize, Doctor in latin means to teach. Don’t teach stuff that is not worth its weight in gold.

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17 thoughts on “Walang Pasma! – Stop patients (and doctors) from spreading the old myth

  1. Hi. I found your blog while researching about ‘pasma’. I grew up where everyone believed in it but as an adult with my own family I hardly thought about it until recently when, after my beginner’s Zumba class, I took a shower to everyone’s horror. Imagine all 15 ladies plus the instructor plus the instructor’s assistant warning me of a long and painful life ahead just because I took a shower so soon after the workout. They all said I should have rested for half a day before showering. What’s the explanation for such fear? I didn’t want to offend them but I also don’t understand what it was that’s scaring them so much.

  2. Hi. I also watched from Discovery Channel that the idea of cold weather or a cold environment causing colds is not that far-fetched. They said that the drop in temperature gives viruses the opportunity to infect us, thus leading to colds.
    I did a little research; it seems the Smithsonian.com and Reuters.com say the same thing:

    1) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-scientific-reason-cold-weather-could-cause-colds-180953817/?no-ist

    2) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-colds-idUSKBN0KE1OK20150105

    So, although this doesn’t cause this pasma crap that every old-world filipino is scared of, it does cause colds…and with that every other symptom that comes with that which may be misconstrued as the proverbial “pasma.”

    …just my two cents

  3. Ung mga kamay ko namamanhid sa gabi pag gising ko sa umaga masakit at d ko maigalaw ng maayos ask ko sana kung ano tawag sa ganon sakit kung hindi sya pasma,

  4. Only recently, a patient of mine, 16 year-old female was attributing his illness to increased perspiration of the legs. She ascribed ‘pasma’ as the leading cause of her ailments: principally cough, coryza and fever. They abhorred my explanation that pasma is nonexistent and that she has an Acute Nasopharyngitis probably due to a bacterial infection. They took my prescription but was not impressed with me.

    —> ano po gamot jan sa cough, coryza and fever na sabi nyo na acute nasopharyngitis kasi po tama po sabi nyo kasi po pag my ubo ako nalabas ugat sa kaliwa simula tuhod pababa tas nawawala sya pag nawawala din ubo ko. pati po ng plema

    • My weird suspicion about Pasma.

      Today, I witnessed a full blown manifestation of Pasma. Ain’t pretty…. the shaking, the ice- cold-sweating, feeling very ill,…The victim said “Pasma” I was curious about this disease. It is an exclusive creation of the Filipino mind. It only occurs here in the Philippines. Not describe anywhere in medical literature. Like a superstition that comes on full blown only to those who believe in it. Yes, all superstitions, curses, hexes have strong energy behind it. A life-force, if you will. People who do not believe into it…NEVER get this illness. Curious. I don’t. I know it is afraid of me.

      Here is what I think….It appears to be a disease created originally from a THOUGHTFORM,…and energized by belief subscription (collective unconscious) by the masses. In other words, Pasma was created as a thought, and this thought became semi-sentient and self-aware ENTITY by the energy given by people who believed in it. Every time somebody in FEAR thinks that he might get sick of Pasma, , this entity attacks, grows stronger and bigger and more virulent. It is possible it has to “eat” energy from people, but willl only attack by invitation. Probably much like how influenza, colds, diabetes, arthritis , murder entity, addiction entity,,etc…..they come to us per invitation, especially if powered by FEAR…….
      the law of attraction in motion. THOUGHT THAT BECAME A FORM.

      I know it is not possible to have Pasma because…………..It is NOT possible. Everybody knows that. It defies science. The human body has a control mechanism…a very efficient THERMOSTAT that regulates the body temperature. It is possible for cold blooded beings, such as the Reptilians (google) , to suffer from Pasma because they don’t have this THERMOSTAT. but NOT HUMANS. I tell this to my medical doctor relatives, but they are not convinced. because they have extensive experience on this malady.

      Which reminds me….Who came first, the egg or the chicken..?
      What do you think…?


  5. i feel you brother. i once shared a true to life consult recently in my fb page. just want to share for everyones consumption.

    this is a case of a 3y/o male from sta mesa manila who presented with low grade fever of 4 days duration

    doc louie: (usual greeting) ano po ba papaconsult nyo sa anak nyo?

    nanay: naku doc nilalagnat po kasi itong si __ ___ 4 araw na.

    doc louie: ano po ba nangyari?

    nanay: naglalaro po kasi sya buong maghapon nung sunday kaya nagka pilay. pina hilot ko na po kaso pagdating ng gabi nausog naman. tapos kahapon nawala na lagnat nya kaso nabati ata naman nung kapitbahay. pinalawayan namin naging ok naman sya kaso mukhang nabinat kagabi.

    doc louie: (nganga)

    working dx ni mommy:
    usog secondary to pilay with
    binat secondary to bati

  6. Pingback: Home Remedy for Fever: The Correct Approach | Open.For.Consult!

  7. The problem with you trying to justify pasma as a catchall description of a ilness is that Pasma has very specific “causes”. The diagnosis of pasma is loaded one. When a doctor leads a patient to believe that she/he has pasma, the patient will continue to engage in time wasting rituals based around changes in moisture, temperature, etc.

    I agree that much of the time the patient is probably just trying to describe a real ailment in the only way he/she knows how. That doesn’t change the fact that unless their knowledge is updated, they will continue letting an imaginary disease limit their lives. “pasma” prevention is at best a time waster and at worst a detriment to one’s health.

  8. Bonjour, monsieur docteur! Mapia magabi!
    Pasma is not a specific disease so you would have more peace of mind if you stop thinking of it as one singular ailment. It is a general word to describe a non-specific set of symptoms – related or otherwise – that is felt by a person, making him aware of an abnormal state of a part or the whole of his body. In English it can be loosely translated as malady or sickness or illness or disorder. In French, malade. The fact that it is not specific does not mean it does not exist. Take the word “cute”. It means many different things to different people but it stays in the verbal field. Not everything can be boxed into regular shapes and sizes. Please do lighten up. Try reading Max Shulman’s “Love is a Fallacy” and you can begin enjoying words for what they imply, and not get upset for what they cannot amply pin down. Peace, doctor. Greetings from Maguindanao!

    • Hey I’m not angry Jenny. I deserve all the critics I can get. Trust me, I appreciate your comments. Its cool, very cool for people to actually respond to your opinions. Do me a favor and subscribe to the blog. I could use people like you to provide a contrasting opinion. It would be pompous for me not to accept comments. Nice to know I’m viewed in Maguindanao.

  9. Obviously, Filipino vocabulary is limited in medical terminology and pasma can mean many different things. It doesn’t mean that pasma does not exist. It does, in every form of sickness that non-medical people cannot name. For lack of a name, they explain their state of negative health as “pasma”. Medical people will be more helpful if they help their patients to explore their symptoms and teach them the proper name of their illnesses. They are least helpful when they insist that there is no “pasma” because it is like telling the patient that he is not sick. He is, he just doesn’t know how to describe or define it well. Less educated patients use “pasma” to describe hypoglycemia, heat stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, thyroid crisis, postpartum psychosis, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle cramps, tendinitis, palpitations, etc, etc, etc. A doctor who superciliously dampens his patient’s ignorant attempt to put a name to his condition is insensitive. Listen to your patient and help him to put a name to his disease. Don’t shoot him for his ignorance. Then he will be amazed at your kind consideration to his limited knowledge. Doctors who are considerate are more trusted by their patients.

    • You are right, pasma can mean a lot of things to a lot of patients. Which is why I wrote to remove the word in Filipino vocabulary. It’s senseless and people think some hocus pocus magic is behind this pasma. I do tell them politely that it is wrong to call it pasma as whatever ailment they have has a medical name. Does that make me inconsiderate? I teach, that’s why I’m a good doctor. I don’t shoot people for their ignorance. I make them smarter and more able to handle their disease on their own. That’s my job and I am doing it well. I know, because my patients tell me.

      The problem my article is pointing out is that patients and other doctors are taught about pasma the wrong way. Patients tend to be more stern in their belief that there is such a thing as pasma because old doctors and some unfortunately ignorant new doctors agree. They don’t teach patients that there is no pasma. They strengthen the patient’s belief to it instead of correcting it and the belief gets passed down to a new generation of doctors and patients. It’s a cycle that must be stopped. Filipino patients should be educated.

      You pointed it out very well that it can mean many ailments to different people. There really is no pasma as there is no single definition for it.

  10. napansin ko lang po. pagka pagod ang kamay at braso ko pagkagaling s manual work like s farm for about 4 hours at nagbasa agad ng kamay (tuyo ang kamay at mga hinahawakan all through the 4 working hours), nakakaexperience po bale ng pagmamanhid ng braso habang tulog at nagigising ako dahil dun. d po un nangyayari pagka nakapagpahinga muna bago nagbasa or naghugas ng kamay or kapag mainit-init ang tubig n ginagamit s paghugas ng kamay. i guess pagka frequent namang nagbabasa ng kamay habang nagwowork, d un nangyayari. for sure kung may pasma man, d un under infectious diseases but maybe under degenerative diseases due to temperature stress s muscle tissues but short-term lang ang effect. may nararamdaman po ako bale kasi n magandang effect s ganun kaya somehow mahirap n d un nag eexist or maybe ibang case ung sa akin. thanks po

    • First of all, teminology under the Philippine language is mixed up. Manhid means numb. You had better be sure it’s numb because if I prick you and say you feel it, it’s not numb. It’s not a degenerative disease nor is it infectious. The bad thing you feel after manual labor is the same thing you feel after you go to a gym. It’s called fatigue, probably DOMS or delayed onset muscle strain! Congratulations, you’re normal. Everybody can have it too.
      See the following article: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/313267-overview
      Warm water increases your blood flow, cold water dampens pain. Avoid what you’re feeling with warm ups and cool downs.
      There is no such thing as pasma. It’s an easy explanation but pasma does not exist in any of my medical books or current literature and guidelines. Sorry to disappoint you.

    • I’ve been taking a bath after work/school ever since I was a kid. To tell you the truth, it felt good. I work in the hospital where I have to wash myself a lot.
      Pasma is a psychogenic illness. The more you believe it, the more you’ll feel something after you do wash your feet after taking your shoes off.

      • ano po b ang dpat gwin pra mawala ang pasma ko sa paa at kamay kasi po minsan pagpinapasma aq s paa ay nagdudumi ang paa q at yung kamay q po hind aq makahawak ng ayaw pagpinapasma yung paa q gus2 q lng po tlga n mwla ang pasama ko ….

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