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Allergies or COVID? Expert says symptoms differ, but best to take precautions – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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You feel a sneeze coming on, or a tickle in your throat, and the alarm bells start ringing in your head.

Is it seasonal allergies or is it the beginnings of a COVID-19 infection?

While springtime pollen can cause sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes in allergy sufferers, a Toronto allergist says it’s best to take precautions if seasonal symptoms start presenting like those more common in COVID cases.

“There is a real risk here — or at least a real temptation — to try to minimize symptoms and brush them off and say: ‘well, it’s only allergy, let’s see how things go,”‘ said Dr. Peter Vadas, the head physician at the Allergy and Immunology Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“But if it turns out that it’s not allergy, and you’ve been out and about potentially spreading this infection around, you’ve done an enormous disservice to the public and to yourself.”

The Mayo Clinic’s website says seasonal allergy, also called hay fever, causes “cold-like signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure.”

Hay fever isn’t caused by a virus though, like the common cold or COVID-19. Rather, it’s an allergic response to either indoor allergens like pet dander, or outdoor allergens that tend to ramp up around early spring.

Vadas, who’s received an influx of questions about allergy symptoms in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, said that early spring brings with it two major allergens — tree pollen in the air that can travel from far distances, and outdoor mould spores caused by rain-dampened soil.

Grass pollen comes into play later in the spring, around May and June, Vadas added. He said checking the weather forecast for pollen and mould counts could help in determining whether symptoms are caused by outdoor allergens or something else.

“This time of year especially, people are expressing concern because there are some (allergy) symptoms which resemble those that we see with COVID patients,” Vadas said. “So it does raise that level of anxiety. People are very attuned to this.”

The major distinction between allergies and COVID-19, Vadas said, is the presence of fever that’s usually associated with the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States lists cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell as other common symptoms of COVID-19.

Some of those, like coughing, can overlap with hay fever.

But Vadas says to watch for multiple symptoms. If just one is present, it’s likely not due to COVID-19.

“It’s usually part of a constellation of other symptoms that will help to differentiate it,” he said. “And the other big distinction to this is treatment.

“Antihistamines will help to a large measure in reducing or minimizing the symptoms of seasonal allergies, but they won’t do anything for reducing or minimizing the symptoms related to COVID-19.”

People certain their symptoms are allergy-specific still need to protect themselves against the coronavirus, Vadas said. Those with runny noses and itchy or watery eyes need to be especially cognizant about not touching their faces.

Coronavirus precautions won’t protect against allergens either, he added. Cloth or surgical masks, which don’t form a tight seal against the face, won’t completely keep pollen out.

Vadas says seasonal allergies tend to present themselves in a similar pattern year after year. So if you experience symptoms every spring, it’s probably hay fever. If you’re worried that you’ve recently developed a pollen allergy, however, testing for it will likely have to wait until after the pandemic is over.

Most allergy clinics are closed to non-critical patients for now, so the skin tests usually done to detect hay fever aren’t available. A blood test is another option, but Vadas says there are downsides to that, including long wait times for results.

“It also requires a trip to a laboratory, which isn’t necessarily the best thing to do at this time,” he added. “We’d like to keep people away from crowded conditions, especially health-care facilities.”

Vadas says health-care workers and immunocompromised people should get tested for COVID-19 if they’re worried their symptoms don’t quite line up with seasonal allergies.

“I really advise against being lax about this if the situation is unclear,” he said. “If somebody is working in health care or long-term care homes, or if they are high-risk … these individuals need to take steps to find out if they do or don’t have it.

“They should be calling telehealth or their family physician or go to an assessment centre to find out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020.

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Ripples from coronavirus research scandal rocks global scientific community – RFI English

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Issued on: 06/06/2020 – 12:02Modified: 06/06/2020 – 12:02

The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say.

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This as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.

 On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work.

The issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it — Chicago-based Surgisphere — refused to be audited.

 At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.

Lancet paper

 Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.

Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

 “It’s very politicized — there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told French new agency AFP.

This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against COVID-19.

 On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial — carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation — showed it had no impact against the virus.

Mystery company

 The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.

   As a  result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.

 But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.

 Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of COVID-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern — before the authors themselves pulled both papers.

 Role of Surgisphere

 Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.

 However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.

Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.

 According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.

   Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.

   “The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.

  

  

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COVID-19 research scandal: Unwanted diversion during pandemic – Egypt Independent

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June 6, 2020
10:04 am


The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say, as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.

On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work and issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it — Chicago-based Surgisphere — refused to be audited.

At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.

Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.

Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

“It’s very politicized — there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP.

This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against COVID-19.

On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial — carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation — showed it had no impact against the virus.

– Mystery company –

The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.

As a result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.

But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.

Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of COVID-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern — before the authors themselves pulled both papers.

Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.

However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.

Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.

According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.

Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.

“The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.

– Systemic issues –

For Ivan Oransky, who founded Retraction Watch in 2010, the affair is far from surprising, serving instead to highlight systemic issues in science publishing and the way science is reported to the public.

“No one took a hard look at the data,” said Oransky. “But we’ve known about these issues for literally decades.”

Policymakers should get away from the idea of using the results of a single study to inform their decisions, he added, as was the case for the WHO — and the media has a responsibility to place papers in context instead of hyping them up.

The problem also stems from the fact that even leading journals rely too heavily on an honor system, but “you never know when a catastrophe is going to happen, if you’re not willing to put into place some reasonable safeguards,” added Oransky.

As to the future, the current episode is unlikely to serve as a wake-up call, he said. If one journal increases its diligence, more blockbuster papers will start appearing in its competitors.

Image: AFP/File / GEORGE FREY A pharmacy tech holds a tablet of hydroxychloroquine


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Unveiling Covid-19 research scandal – Asia Times

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The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say, as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.

On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work and issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it – Chicago-based Surgisphere – refused to be audited.

At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.

Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.

Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

“It’s very politicized – there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP.

This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against Covid-19.

On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial – carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation – showed it had no impact against the virus.

Mystery company

The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.

As a result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.

But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.

Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of Covid-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern – before the authors themselves pulled both papers.

Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.

However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.

Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.

According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.

Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.

“The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.

Systemic issues

For Ivan Oransky, who founded Retraction Watch in 2010, the affair is far from surprising, serving instead to highlight systemic issues in science publishing and the way science is reported to the public.

“No one took a hard look at the data,” said Oransky. “But we’ve known about these issues for literally decades.”

Policymakers should get away from the idea of using the results of a single study to inform their decisions, he added, as was the case for the WHO – and the media has a responsibility to place papers in context instead of hyping them up.

The problem also stems from the fact that even leading journals rely too heavily on an honor system, but “you never know when a catastrophe is going to happen, if you’re not willing to put into place some reasonable safeguards,” added Oransky.

As to the future, the current episode is unlikely to serve as a wake-up call, he said. If one journal increases its diligence, more blockbuster papers will start appearing in its competitors.

AFP

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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