I personally don't see the point of "salvaging" questions by making them very different from their original. Compare:

Is it possible that a person has coronavirus if he only has difficulty breathing?

I have been suffering from difficult breathing for about 20 days now. It ranges from low to medium and the past few days it became almost permanent. I am afraid of going out and doing the test because I live in a third world country and I am afraid the hospitals that do the test will actually get me the virus (We have so many stories about people catching it this way). My question is, what should I do? I don't have any other symptoms, only the difficult breathing, could that be coronavirus?


With the version edited by a regular here:

Is it possible to have coronavirus (covid-19) with minimal to no symptoms whatsoever?

"The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea."

World Health Organization (WHO)

If a person only has one of these symptoms, or doesn't even have any symptoms, is it still possible to have the virus?

The original question was mainly about "difficulty breathing" (for 20 days); the updated question is nothing like that "fever, tiredness, and dry cough" etc.

I see no point in editing a question to such an extent. The established user could well ask their question separately.

  • I view the whole issue as irrelevant because it's a request for medical advice and therefore off topic no matter how it's edited.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 2, 2020 at 5:26
  • 1
    Without opining on whether these edits are good or not, they're pretty common here as a way to attempt to salvage questions that are asked as medical advice. Complaints from the posters are pretty rare here compared to elsewhere, because I think people tend to understand pretty quickly that they'd never get an answer otherwise.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Apr 2, 2020 at 5:30
  • 1
    Instead of editing questions like this, people should just compose a new question that asks the same thing without making it personal. Which is to say I agree with you.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 2, 2020 at 5:35
  • @CareyGregory That seems like a reasonable guideline to adopt if there is sufficient meta consensus - maybe make it an answer?
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Apr 2, 2020 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


I don't think anyone should attempt to salvage medical advice questions. Doing that is a poorly concealed way of circumventing the rule on advice questions and ends up giving the asker exactly what they wanted.

Here's what I propose as a guideline:

If you think an advice question has underlying value, you should vote to close the question if you have sufficient rep, or flag it if you don't. You should then write a new question that asks the valuable part in a general manner and without including any personal details from the original question.

A trivial example:

Original question: I have a cough and shortness of breath. Do I have COVID-19?

New question: What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Well, I agree obviously. Hopefully more people will read and upvote this so it can be considered a consensus approach in the future, as Bryan Krause has suggested. Apr 2, 2020 at 20:16
  • I see this as an educational outreach to the new community. We edit their questions so that they can see the format required to post questions. I really don't think the regulars here need to do more work which is what posting a new question entails. Apr 2, 2020 at 22:30
  • 2
    @GrahamChiu The vast majority of medical advice questions are new users who find this site through web searches. They ask their question and never return, even when they get an answer, as they often did in the past. As for work, editing a medical advice question into acceptable form is usually just as much work as writing a new question from scratch.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 2, 2020 at 23:45
  • that's true for all of stackexchange/stackoverflow - editing a question is easier for me, I have no desire to ask a question which I know the answer to mostly. Apr 3, 2020 at 0:16
  • @GrahamChiu Fine, then just vote to close and move on. You're not going to increase useful content on this site by skirting the rules on medical advice questions. I think the reasoning behind the canonical answer to why we don't allow advice questions still applies to questions that have been edited to disguise them.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 3, 2020 at 0:24
  • The answer there suggests that converting a question to a generalised question is fine. Maybe you read it wrong. Apr 3, 2020 at 0:30
  • I point out this as well medicalsciences.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/768/… where Jon says it's fine to convert questions into educational ones. Apr 3, 2020 at 0:45
  • Jon also seems to be arguing in favor of answering advice questions, which I will never agree with. Otherwise we're in complete agreement on the heart of the matter. You just think editing the question should be okay and I think making a new question is a better solution.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 3, 2020 at 5:13
  • 1
    @GrahamChiu And you really should spell out how you think the guideline should read in an answer so it can be voted on.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Apr 3, 2020 at 5:14
  • @GrahamChiu: has Jon Ericson answered any actual questions on the main Med SE site? Giving advice on meta is easy (especially when [or should I say "just while"] you get paid to do that)... Apr 8, 2020 at 8:09
  • @fizz was Jon one of the many to lose his job during the great culling? Apr 8, 2020 at 8:14
  • @GrahamChiu: yes he was. Apr 8, 2020 at 8:15
  • Ok. It doesn't really matter because I'm out of here after this blows over. Apr 8, 2020 at 8:16
  • Regarding Jon's statement "My (possibly misguided) hope comes from seeing amateurs build truly useful sites such as Philosophy." I actually never visit that site nowadays. It's an opinion fest, hardly different that "personal communication advice" (or however that other similar thingy is called) Even the other "P", Politics SE is a lot better than Philosophy SE in terms of keeping answers bound to facts, even when the facts are "what does ideology X say about Y". Apr 8, 2020 at 8:18

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