What the New Peanut Study Really Says (and Doesn’t).

PeanutsWhen my son was eight months old, I gave him egg whites for breakfast. Fifteen minutes later, as the hives on his face expanded before my eyes, I was being grilled in an exam room by the on-call pediatrician. “Can you explain to me why you decided to introduce egg whites before the AAP recommends?”

Feeling more than a little ashamed and defensive I explained I hadn’t introduced egg whites before the American Academy of Pediatrics’s (AAP) recommended guidelines. The AAP hadn’t recommended restricting highly allergenic foods for low-risk children since at least 2008 and this was supported by guidelines from NIAID, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The pediatrician looked over my son, said the reaction was mild and he would likely outgrow it (he has), and said the last he checked egg whites weren’t to be introduced before 12 months, motioned towards my son and said “and this is why.” He left the room with what could be interpreted as a door slam.

This incident made me realize two things: Continue reading

There’s Actually a Scientific Reason Behind Being #antivaxx

In just under 10 minutes, Hank Green of YouTube’s famous SciShow gives the most scientific (while easily understandable) explanation of why people opt out of vaccines. His video follows the thinking of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman who claims that “[p]eople are much more afraid of their children dying from a vaccine than they are from a child dying of an illness that spreads naturally. If something would happen to their child after being vaccinated, their decision becomes a focus of enormous regret.” Continue reading

The Walking Dead: Sorry Rick, The Kids Aren’t Alright

Judith has it hardest during the zombie apocalypse.

On last week’s Walking Dead the group’s leader, Rick, postulated that the zombie-filled post-apocalyptic world is easier for children to cope with because they don’t remember the world the way it used to be. That’s an interesting theory as it cuts to the heart of how child and adult brains cope with trauma and heal afterwards.

Let’s put Rick’s theory to the test: Do kids in the zombie apocalypse really have it easier than the adults? Continue reading

What We Could Learn From Sweden

I recently listened to a radio interview comparing Sweden to the US with regard to vaccination rates. I should emphasize the fact that the two countries share very little in common when it comes to healthcare, which naturally informs the average citizen about their medical choices BUT one detail stood out to me. Herd Immunity.

For years it was a term limited to my geeky global health cohort, but in Sweden, the ethos of herd immunity is on the minds of most average citizens.

A study by Björn Rönnerstrand published in The Scandinavian Journal of Public Health in 2013 investigated the connection between social capitol indicators and immunization during the 2009 H1N1 influenza season.

The takeaway?

Swedes who opted to vaccinate had higher levels of trust – trust in the healthcare system and in society. (Again, we share very little in common) What blew my mind was reading that the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control created this slogan: “Be vaccinated to protect your fellow citizens.”  A slogan!  An others-focused slogan! Beyond promoting individual protection, this was about caring for others and ensuring communities felt secure. Continue reading

How I Accidentally Started an Anti-Vaxx Myth in the Name of Science

Crossed Lines

I’m an infectious disease researcher and the mother of two children, so I’m usually the first person friends and family turn to whenever a disease is in the news. Since the Disneyland measles outbreak, I’ve responded to a lot of myths and misinformation from concerned parents.

As a mother I understand what it’s like to to want to arm yourself with as much information as possible to protect your children.  As an infectious disease researcher it’s frustrating to see people without knowledge of virology nor immunology misconstrue science, or simply ignore it, and spread dangerous misinformation.

A new anti-vaxx myth has surfaced which seems to have been developed as a result of my recent post “Disneyland Measles Outbreak is Due to Measles”, which discussed the measles genotype responsible for this outbreak. Continue reading

What’s Up With That | Peer Review

Peer Review

Last week a friend sent me a link to a website that had some pretty scary statements on it and asked, “IS THIS TRUE?????” Most of us know that when a friend sends us an all-caps message with an uneven number of question marks, the issue requires immediate attention.

I reviewed the post which claimed to have references, however, all of the references linked back to other comments or blog posts on the same site. It also didn’t reference any peer-reviewed sources and a quick review of the literature showed that nothing supported their claims.

When I told my friend this, she had only one response, “What does peer-reviewed mean?”

In short, peer-review is professional hell. Continue reading

What I Want You To Know: My Son’s Life Depends on Community Immunity

Veronica Campbell Kids

Most 15 year old girls are more interested in boys or music than how deep their science high school coursework is. And while I was also interested in boys and music, I remember asking my dad for a more challenging high school science course when I was 15. My dad, who has a degree in genetics, had given me a pretty decent science background up to that point, but he did as I asked and assigned the Human Genome Project for me to read, discuss, write papers on, and research. That started a lifelong love of medical research, and more broadly, medicine.

I have three children, and my youngest, Mac, was born with a rare form of spina bifida called myelomeningocele with shunted hydrocephalus. Amongst other things he is paraplegic, has a tracheostomy, and needs to use a ventilator to breathe at night.

Mac is my miracle child; my smart and vivacious little boy. He was not expected to see his first birthday, but like the courageous child he is, he has seen three. He’s the jokester of the family and he’s one of the most expressive nonverbal children you will ever meet. Continue reading

Does HPV Vaccine Gardasil Really Have A Dark Side?

Star Disclaimer

In their story on the purported devastating side-effects of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, the Toronto Star’s David Bruser and Jesse McLean buried the lead. In both the print and video amplifier, the message “in the cases discussed in this story, it is the opinion of a doctor or patient that a particular drug has caused a side effect. There is no proof the vaccine caused a death, illness or hospitalization,” [emphasis mine] was buried either at or towards the end.

Continue reading

What’s Up With That? Can Parents Really Tell Their Child’s Cry from Other Children’s?


The Scene:
One rainy Saturday I decided to take my newly minted toddler to a large indoor play area, as did apparently every other parent in the area.

The sound was cacophonous, music playing in the background, children giggling, squealing, crying, calling for their friends and parents, I struggled to hear the mother next to me say that she should have known better than to come on a rainy Saturday.

I leaned in to better hear the other mother and when I turned back, my son was gone.  Moments before he was within arm’s reach, I had only turned away for five seconds. I turned in circles several times, I called his name but it was drowned out by the noise, my heart dropped, I broke out in a cold sweat.

Continue reading