Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hay fever makes you dumb?

I think it is obvious that sneezing and sore eyes (which I myself suffer badly from) would be distracting and tiring during an exam but I doubt that there is anything more than that going on. I hate to state the boringly obvious again but the fact that those on medication did worse probably means that it was they whose symptoms were worse. The absurd original heading on this article was: "Hay fever drugs ‘cost students an exam grade’". Hostility to drug companies obviously matters a lot more than the facts

Nearly three quarters of students taking hay fever medication can expect to drop a grade in their exams this year as ingredients in the most popular remedies interfere with their ability to concentrate, research suggests. Even hay fever sufferers not taking any medication face a 40 per cent risk of achieving lower grades than expected as a result of their condition, the study by the Education for Health charity has found. The study was funded by the drug firm Shering-Plough, which makes several hay fever remedies.

Samantha Walker, the charity's director of research and the lead author of the study, said that for too long hay fever had been regarded as a trivial condition. "Hay fever peaks between the ages of 14 and 24. This is precisely the time when many people are doing life-changing exams and we need to take it seriously," she said. She hoped that the study, based on the exam performance of 1,834 15 to 17-year-olds, would open a discussion on how to "remove the bias operating against those with hay fever" by shifting the examination season to a time that does not coincide with the peak pollen count. Dr Walker said she also hoped that the study, the first to analyse the impact of the condition on exam performance, would help students to manage their hay fever symptoms better by directing them towards the most appropriate, nonsedating medication.

The study compared the exam performance of participants in mock and final GCSE exams for maths, English or science. The normal expectation is that most children will achieve the same grade achieved in their mocks, or with increased effort, improve on them when sitting the exam. Any drop in grade is therefore unexpected. But the study found that those who had hay fever symptoms on an exam day were 40 per cent more likely to drop a grade between their mock and their final exam. This increased to 70 per cent if they were on a sedating allergy medication at the time of their exam.

Teenagers with severe hay fever, and a history of symptoms in previous years, were twice as likely to drop a grade. Michelle Cox, 18, sneezed her way through her English literature A Level paper on Monday and fears that it may well have cost her a grade. Ms Cox, from Bexleyheath, South London, had a similar experience when she sat her GCSE maths paper. "I was sneezing and my nose really hurt and I was so tired. I got a grade D, but had been expected to get a C," she said. She takes hay fever medication every day, but was not aware that it might be making her drowsy. She is hoping that things will improve for her remaining three A level papers.

Some 28 per cent of students on hay fever medication were on a sedating antihistamine. This is despite the wide availability of effective nonsedating treatments and guidelines recommending their use. Dr Walker said that the sedating treatments, containing the drug chlorpheniramine and most usually sold under the name Piriton, adversely affected exam performance. Students who fear that hay fever has interfered with their results can apply to the Joint Council for Qualifications, for their condition to be taken into account.


Obesity treated as child neglect in Britain

In a world where science trumped politics, it would be treated as a genetic abnormality

Obesity has played a part in at least 20 child-protection cases across Britain in the past year, a study has found. Fifty paediatricians were asked by the BBC if they thought that childhood obesity could be a child-protection issue.

One doctor spoke of a 10-year-old girl who could walk only a few yards with a stick. He believed that her parents were "killing her slowly" with a diet of chips and high-fat food. Some doctors now believe that extreme cases of overfeeding a young child should be seen as a form of abuse or neglect, according to the report.

Tabitha Randell, a consultant from Nottingham, said that in one case she saw a child aged 2«, who weighed more than 4st (25.4 kg). She said: "They said she was big-boned and they were, too. Parents' perception is a very real problem."


Dangerous cookies

Just for fun I reproduce below the label on a packet of peanut cookies that I bought from the local IGA supermarket today. I am sure the supplier put on the label exactly the warning mandated by the bureaucrats. For the record, each cookie did visibly have peanuts protruding from it. I would not have bought them otherwise. I certainly wanted more than "traces" of nuts in them.


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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