Posted by: Ticktock | March 17, 2009

Allergy Science Vs. Allergy Woo!

Survey says!!!

50% of kids tested for food allergies were not actually allergic. When somebody asks why there are so many people who are allergic today, you can point to this research by National Jewish Health. There’s a good chance that only half of kids are actually allergic to the food they think they are allergic to; the other half have paranoid parents. Or they were misdiagnosed. The true test of whether you are actually allergic to something is whether or not you can eat it. Blood tests and skin prick tests are not definitive.

As far as the peanut allergy craze, that may be a thing of the past. Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have been testing whether challenging a child’s allergy with incremental amounts of the allergen in their food can eventually cure them of the allergy.  As it stands, only a small number of children have participated, but half of them are now completely able to handle peanuts without breaking out.

I’m just going to assume that there is no link between the first study and the second study, right?  50% of kids don’t actually have allergies and 50% of kids are cured by scientists?  Surely, the scholars at Duke double-checked that the kids they were testing were actually allergic.  Just kidding!  Some of the kids in the Duke study had an extremely low tolerance for peanuts, but it’s still a funny coincidence.

Before anyone gets the wild idea to try this at home, be aware that challenging your child with food to which she is allergic should only be done by doctors in an observed setting.  As everyone knows from peanut hysteria, the nut is deadly to those who are allergic.

I feel bad for the researchers who had previously discovered that peanut allergies may be cured by a combination of Chinese herbs.   Duke kind of stole their thunder.  It’s too bad because Traditional Chinese Medicine really needed to put a check in the “win” column.  But, they shouldn’t worry because I have news…

Chinese herbs cure eczema!  Yeah, right.

The Ming Qi Natural Health Center in Manhattan treated 14 children with a combination of Erka Shizheng Herbal Tea, herbal baths and creams, and acupuncture.   The results of this “study” are worded in a tricky way.

At the start of the study, more than half of the participants had severe symptoms on a standard scale that doctors use to gauge eczema severity. After eight months of treatment, most had mild symptoms

More than half could mean that 8/14 had severe symptoms, and the rest had mild symptoms.  If that were the case, it would only require 2 patients with severe symptoms to mildly heal for  “most” of them to have mild symptoms eight months later.  Also, this study was not controlled or blinded in any way, so it’s worthless.

Any healing that occurred with these patients could have been from the moisture of the baths or the non herbal components of the cream.  There’s also the strong possibility that some of the children healed naturally.  I know that my daughter had eczema as a baby and it went away naturally.  There’s also an egregious problem with this data – some of the kids were using steroid medicine.

A good study needs to be controlled for all the possible variables.  How can we know anything certain if there are no controls?

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