Myth-busting allergy tests and treatments

Check out some Ask for Evidenve stories from Voice of Young Science members Chelsea, Dominic and Jess. For more myth-busting on allergy tests and treatments, see Sense About Science’s public guide Making Sense of Allergies.

Chelsea: “I know that homeopathy is woo, but when I saw it promoted to treat allergies – which can have very serious consequences – I decided to Ask for Evidence.

“Homeopathy is highly effective in the treatment of allergies”. This is a statement made in an article on the Homeopathy Zone website. The piece goes on to say “homeopathic allergy treatment is the strengthening of the organism at its spiritual core, leading to increased resilience of the organism.” And recommends “…clean diets such as the raw food diet” in order to cure food allergies. I got in contact with the naturopath and homeopath who wrote the article, to ask for evidence – but his response didn’t address my question.

Verdict: Not worth it.

Dominic: “A clinic was offering acupuncture to treat hayfever. After I asked for evidence, requesting relevant references to support their claim, they edited their blog to include sources.”

“The clinic sent me a PubMed citation within a few days. I was directed to an abstract of a study published in "The American Journal of Chinese Medicine", which was a study published in 1975 on 22 subjects with hayfever - Lau et al. (1975). 50% of subjects were "virtually symptom free", 36% received "a moderate reduction in symptoms" and the remaining subjects received no significant relief. I am unable to access the full text of the article, but the abstract fails to mention the use of a control group. As a hayfever sufferer I am familiar with the way that hayfever symptoms can come and go, so if no control group were used in this study then the apparent relief of 50% of subjects may not necessarily be due to acupuncture. But I'm unable to verify this suspicion without access to the full article. Since my initial email went to the clinic, they've updated their blog post about acupuncture and hayfever by adding additional references to the page. One additional trial has been cited, but a separate blog commenting on its methodological flaws cast doubt on seemingly positive results.”

Verdict: Perhaps as good as a placebo

Jess: “I’m studying for a PhD in asthma immunology, and knew that Sense About Science were launching a Making Sense of Allergies guide, so I decided to see what online services are offered to identify food intolerances and allergies.”

“During my browsing I came across The Intolerance Testing Group, who claimed that their “One Step Test” uses the latest in bio-technology to produce a report that lists the items of food and non-food that a person is intolerant to. All you have to do is send a hair sample and items that have shown an intolerance of 85% and over register as positive. It wasn’t clear from the website how they actually use the hair samples to assess food intolerances and how they established an 85% threshold for intolerance… so I asked for evidence! I am currently waiting for a reply from the company”


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