Renenber the hair product ad for Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo that ran in the 1980s where one woman tells another, who tells another, who tells another about the merits of the shampoo? Social media behaved in just this way when women share their personal stories about allergies they developed when wearing the same style of bra.

Here’s the post from December 23, 2007, from Catherine145. She says, “I recently bought a Victoria Secret padded demi bra. I am also dieting so when my top began to itch I originally associated it with the fact that everything was shrinking.” She then spoke with her sister, who reported the same itchy reaction to the bra.

Since Catherine145’s original post, there have been many women in the MedHelp community attesting to rashes, hives, redness, and itchiness due to the bra. By May 2008, an investigator from the Institute for Textile and Apparel Product Safety department at Philadelphia University wrote in this forum about a research project looking at the potential toxicity in apparel products.

CBS in Cleveland has picked up the story, and called it, “Bad Bras: A Consumer Alert.” They write, “Some bras make you sexier. Some make you more comfortable. 19 Action News found bras that might leave red welts all over your chest.” You can view the consumer alert video at the link.

MedHelp, which bills itself as “The World’s Largest Health Community” with 5.5 million visitors monthly, was founded in 1994 and is one of the oldest health communities online. It offers a broad range of condition channels where consumers meet up with each other and with clinicians. MedHelp has long-standing partnerships with several leading health care provider organizations including the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, and Partners Health.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Here’s a great example of how social networking is a powerful platform in health. Consumers are already reaching out online across all kinds of conditions and symptoms. The bad-bra example shows in living color how this phenomenon works for the benefit of those who participate. The wisdom of the crowd prevailed. As MedHelp’s tagline says, they’re helping people, “find cures together.”