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A New Twist On Food Allergies In Kids

The current New Yorker unfolds an engaging story on childhood food allergies. As related by Dr. Jerome Groopman, there’s a shift in how some doctors think about how these conditions  are best managed and, even better — might be prevented. The article feeds into recent discussion that medical science, and even dogma, too-often turns out to be incorrect.

Groopman interviews Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jae Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York:

…“This increase in the incidence of food allergy is real,” Sampson said when we spoke recently. He cannot say what is causing the increase, but he now thinks the conventional approach to preventing food allergies is misconceived. For most of his career, he believed, like most allergists, that children are far less likely to become allergic to problematic foods if they are not exposed to them as infants. But now Sampson and other specialists believe that early exposure may actually help prevent food allergies.”

I recommend the full read if you can get it: Groopman probes potential causes of discordant food allergy rates in children of different geographic regions. I learned a number of details on how some doctors in the U.S. use protein-breakdown methods to desensitize children to food allergies, how in Israel newly-speaking infants are said to ask eagerly for Bamba, a manufactured, peanut-containing snack (which, for the record, I don’t particularly endorse), and how in some cultures parents chew their young children’s food in a manner that might that might facilitate breakdown of complex proteins by enzymes in saliva.

All interesting. Of course it’s hard to know exactly what’s true in this, and the causes of allergies are likely to vary among children. There’s a randomized LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) in the U.K. that may provide some hard evidence on this, one way or another.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

New Food Allergy Guidelines

Walnuts and peanuts by viZZZual.com via FlickrThe National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) issued comprehensive food allergy guidelines to help primary care physicians and subspecialists diagnose and manage patients.

The guidelines were published online at the NIAID food allergy guidelines portal, which also has a frequently asked questions section. The agency will release a patient synopsis early next year.

The guidelines establish consistent terminology and definitions, diagnostic criteria and patient management practices. Additional topics covered by the guidelines include the prevalence of food allergy and management of acute allergic reactions to food, including anaphylaxis. The report also identifies gaps about what is known about food allergy.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MACP, said, “Because these guidelines provide standardized, concise recommendations on how to diagnose and manage food allergy and treat acute food allergy reactions across specialties, we expect both clinicians and food allergy patients to greatly benefit from these clear state-of-the-science clinical standards.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Pollen As Microscopic Art

Martin Oeggerli, a Swiss scientific photographer, has turned his talents to the bane of seasonal allergy sufferers and produced a pretty impressive gallery of colorized electron microscope images of pollen grains. The color isn’t true to life in all of the images, but it’s altered to better show the textures in the pollen grains:

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Micronaut: Image Gallery – Spectacular Pollen

(Via BoingBoing)

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Are Your Allergies Acting Up? Ragweed Pollen Season Is Here

I don’t know about you, but my allergies have really been acting up lately. Well, maybe not this week since it’s been cooler. But last week my eyes were watering, my nose was running, and my lungs were wheezing (kind of). But for the first two weeks of August, a lot of my patients were complaining about their allergy symptoms getting worse. And for some people, their asthma was getting worse as well.

The local TV station called me last week during the beginning of ragweed pollen season and asked me to talk about it:

If you find this information helpful, I invite you to check out my other TV interviews about health-related issues.

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

Organic Beauty Products: 5 Things You Should Know

“All natural. Certified organic. Made from natural ingredients. Pure botanicals. Chemical free.”

You might guess I’m standing in the farmers market. Nope. I’m in the “Health and Beauty” aisle at Target. The ubiquitous all-things-natural trend has overtaken the cosmetic industry. How do you know what’s real and what’s marketing hype? Here are five things you should know about organic beauty product labels:

1. Labels that say “natural ingredients” or “botanicals” are not certified organic. These statements are not regulated. Most natural ingredients used in beauty products are actually modified in a lab. Truly botanical ingredients, like you’d pick in your garden, are usually unstable and would spoil like food.

2. Natural doesn’t always mean better. Would you buy: Poison Ivy Eye-Cream? Stinging Nettles Anti-Itch Gel? The most toxic and allergy-inducing ingredients are naturally occurring substances, not manufactured ones. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Dermatology Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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