Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is Facebook an asthma trigger?


A young man suffered asthma attacks that were trigged by logging on to Facebook, say doctors. Medical journal The Lancet features a report about a teenager who had repeated asthma attacks brought on by using the popular social networking website.

The 18 year old was feeling down after his girlfriend broke up with him and deleted him from Facebook. By setting up a profile under a pseudonym, the man succeeded in 're-friending' her, but the act of looking at her profile seemed to bring on shortness of breath. These symptoms occurred every time he logged on to the site.

The five doctors, headed by Dr Gennaro D'Amato from Italy, say: 'The (man's) mother was advised to ask him to measure his peak flow before and after internet login and, indeed, 'post-Facebook' values were reduced, with a variability of more than 20%. In collaboration with a psychiatrist, the patient agreed to no longer log in to Facebook and the asthma attacks stopped.'

The doctors say that other possible factors for the symptoms were excluded with a thorough history and physical examination, and so say that the hyperventilation he experienced was due to seeing his ex-girlfriend's profile.

The doctors conclude: 'This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals. Considering the high prevalence of asthma, especially among young people, we suggest that this type of trigger be considered in the assessment of asthma exacerbations.'

Cher Piddock, Lead Asthma Nurse at Asthma UK says: 'Stress is known to trigger asthma symptoms with nearly 70% of people with asthma telling us it affects them. Other stress-inducing situations which can act as a trigger include depression, financial problems, bereavement and extreme work-related stress.

'Facebook or other social networking sites can sometimes lead to stressful emotional situations which may also trigger asthma symptoms. Monitoring your condition and taking your medicine regularly should help to keep asthma in good control.

'Talk to your doctor or asthma nurse if you are going through a difficult time and it is affecting your asthma, or call our confidential Asthma UK Adviceline on 0800 121 62 44.'

Paracetamol linked to asthma in new report

The use of paracetamol for infants and young children has been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma and allergies, according to a new report.

This follows a number of other studies highlighting the same link, but scientists and doctors agree that we are still far from knowing whether paracetamol causes asthma or other allergic conditions. They are confident that the benefits of paracetamol currently outweigh any potential risks.

The New Zealand-based research team found that children given paracetamol before the age of 15 months (90% of children) were more than three times as likely to be sensitised to allergens. Children given paracetamol aged five to six years were more likely to experience wheezing and asthma, however by this age the increased risk of allergies had disappeared.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy and is based on the New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study, which investigated use of paracetamol for 505 infants and 914 five and six-year-olds.

The researchers highlight that their results do not prove that paracetamol causes asthma - it is possible that children given the medicine earlier are those who are naturally more prone to infections and to asthma and allergies.

Julian Crane, Professor at Otago University in Wellington and author of the report was wary of drawing any strong conclusions. He said: 'The problem is that paracetamol is given quite liberally to young children.

'There's a lot of evidence suggesting that something is going on here. It's not completely clear-cut, that's the problem.'

Paracetamol, found in Calpol and other medicines, is by far the most popular treatment for pain and fever for children, after aspirin use dropped following a link to a potentially fatal condition called Reye's Syndrome.

'We need clinical trials to see whether these associations are causal or not, and to clarify the use of this common medication', said Professor Crane.

The Professor said that in the absence of other options and studies establishing a firm causal link, paracetamol should still be used for now.

'If I had a child with a fever, I'd give them paracetamol'

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK says: ‘Several studies from around the world have suggested there may be a link between giving children paracetamol and an increase in their risk of asthma and other allergic conditions. However, they have not established that paracetamol causes asthma.
'We know that paracetamol is a safe and effective treatment for pain and fever if given according to the manufacturer’s directions and at this stage we believe the benefits of using paracetamol far outweigh the potential risks.’