Tag: alternative medicine

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who do you turn to for health advice?

Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.

In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.

Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.
Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.

As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.

Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!

Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?
Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?

What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.

The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding because they skipped his vitamin K shot.

How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.

And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.

“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”

Brandy Vaughan for Learn the Risk

And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.

Mud wraps don't cure liver cancer.
Mud wraps don’t cure liver cancer.

And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.

Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn't need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn’t need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.

Remember when the six-year-old boy in Florida didn’t after touching a rabid bat? He died.

It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.

Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.

They also don’t tell you that kids in the US still die of diseases like Hib and rotavirus. And there are still measles deaths in the US.

That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.

What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice

You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.

More on the Risks of Following Bad Advice

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Adults have the right, both morally and legally, to make decisions about their medical care.

What about kids?

Until they become adults, or are close to becoming adults, their parents or legal guardians have the right to make those decisions for them.

Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

There are situations in which a parent’s rights to make medical decisions for their kids can be contested. In general, you can’t make decisions that will obviously harm or put your child at extra risk.

“In most countries, parents have a legal right to make treatment decisions on behalf of their young children. Such rights are normally rebuttable: they can be set aside by courts where parents’ decisions pose a significant risk to the life or well-being of the child.”

Tim Dare on Parental rights and medical decisions

For example, if a parent continues to refuse antibiotic therapy and hospitalization for a life-threatening infection, like meningitis, then the child’s doctor will likely contact child protection services and get authorization to treat the child anyway.

What if you refuse a meningitis vaccine? Although a bad idea that puts your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease, unless your child is in the middle of an epidemic, it is very unlikely that anyone would call child protective services on you. In the situations in which courts have gotten involved in getting kids vaccinated and protected, it was because an unvaccinated child was in foster care for another reason, two parents disagreed about vaccines, or rarely, there was an epidemic and the parents refused to either get vaccinated or stay in quarantine.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that all children deserve effective medical treatment that is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death.”

AAP on Religious Objections to Medical Care

Why do these cases come up, cases which certain folks call medical kidnapping?

“Parents are free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Prince v. Massachusetts

It may be that the parents:

  • refused treatment because of religious objections
  • thought that the risks and side effects of the treatment were worse than their child having the disease
  • want to pursue alternative treatments for cancer or other life-threatening conditions, instead of chemotherapy and other standard therapies, especially in situations in which standard therapy has a good chance of success
  • don’t believe the diagnosis is real and are pursuing other treatments that are harming the child
  • want to continue treatments that doctors think have become futile
  • have lost custody of their kids for reasons that have nothing to do with the child’s medical issues and so a legal guardian, which might be the state, is making those decisions now

Fortunately, these situations are not very common, no matter how much some folks try to scare parents that the state is coming to kidnap kids away and force them to get vaccinated or get other treatments. Yes, courts do sometimes have to step in and do what they think is right for a child over a parent’s wishes, but there is no epidemic of doctors or child protective services kidnapping kids.

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Although you can sometimes challenge the decisions a parent makes when their kids are sick, and in some cases, ultimately treat their kids in ways that those parents might not agree with, again, you can’t simply take or kidnap a child and do whatever you like.

“Physicians have both a moral obligation and a legal responsibility to question and, if necessary, to contest both the surrogate’s and the patient’s medical decisions if they put the patient at significant risk of serious harm.”

AAP on Informed Consent in Decision-Making in Pediatric Practice

Except in emergencies, overriding a parent’s wishes is usually a long process, involving second opinions, an ethics panel or team, child protective services, and the courts. In most cases, a judge, sometimes after several appeals, decides what will ultimately be done, looking at all of the evidence from both sides.

That the process takes time is evident when you look at the timeline from the legal battle for Alfie Evans. Although most people likely think everything began when the tragic story finally made headlines, a few weeks before his death, it was at least four months earlier that the hospital began “liaising directly with the family after disagreements over his treatment.” And it was four months before that, when Alfie was 13-months-old, that the hospital had first started talking about withdrawing life-support treatment.

It took a hearing before judge in the family division of the high court, three court of appeal judges, a review by supreme court justices, and a review by the judges at the European court of human rights for Alder Hey Children’s hospital to withdraw Alfie’s life-support treatment.

That the process took so much time was missed by those who push the idea of medical kidnapping. These same folks, in the case of Alfie Evans, are also pushing claims of vaccine injury, a plot to illegally harvest organs, a plot to cover up a misdiagnosis and medical neglect by the hospital, a plot to kill him with a lethal injection, and that others had a plan to help him get better.

Many of the same issues were raised in the case of Charlie Gard, an infant who was taken off life support at another UK hospital against his parent’s wishes.

Other cases have included:

What about when doctors disagree on a diagnosis and plan of care? Can parents simply pick which one they prefer?

In most cases you can.

Doctors have different styles and there are often different treatment plans for the same condition. The trouble typically comes when a parent chooses an alternative type treatment that has been shown to not work or is known to be harmful. Or provides treatments a child doesn’t even need.

Tragically, we often don’t hear about these cases until it is too late and the child dies before doctors and courts ever have a chance to intervene. When folks talk about medical kidnapping, they don’t seem to mention kids like:

  • Ezekiel Stephan – died at 19-months because his parents treated his bacterial meningitis with natural remedies, including “water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root”
  • Madeline Kara Neumann – the 11-year-old who died because her parents relied on prayer instead of modern medicine to treat her diabetes
  • Ryan Lovett – the 7-year-old who died with a Strep skin infection that his mother had been treating with “holistic remedies,” allowing it to progress to pneumonia, meningitis, and multiple organ failure
  • Louise Le Moaligou – an 11-month-old who died because her parents treated her pneumonia with “cabbage and clay compressions”
  • Gloria Thomas – died at 9-months because her parents pursued homeopathic remedies for her severe eczema, even as she developed malnutrition and sepsis.
  • Isabella Denley – a 13-month-old with severe seizures who died after her parents opted for alternative treatments over anti-convulsant medications, including a “vibrational kinesiologist, a cranial osteopath and a psychic who told them Isabella was suffering from a past-life trauma.”
  • Cameron Ayres – a 6-month-old who died with a likely inherited metabolic disorder that was treated by a homeopath with vinegar and honey
  • Eliza Jane Scovill – died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 3-years. Eliza Jane was the daughter of Christine Maggiore, an HIV denialist who advised HIV positive moms to not take preventive antiviral drugs during their pregnancy, the one thing that would have kept Eliza Jane from getting HIV in the first place.
  • Alex Radita – the 15-year-old with diabetes who died because his parents wouldn’t treat him with insulin
  • Aidan Fenton – the 6-year-old with diabetes who died after undergoing slapping therapy by a Chinese healer, therapy that also involved fasting for “days on end.”
  • Garnett Spears – a 5-year-old who supposedly had multiple medical problems, but instead was poisoned by his mother, who was adding a lot of extra salt to his g-tube feeding bags
  • Gypsy Rose Blanchard – after a lifetime of being told she was “sick,” including having leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and seizures, Gypsy and her boyfriend stabbed her mother to death
  • the 6-week-old in South Texas with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who never received vitamin K prophylaxis at birth and died after developing brain bleeding and seizures
  • the 3-week-old in Indiana with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who was born in a birthing center and whose “parents signed a waiver to forego vaccination and prophylactic therapies,” and required an emergency craniotomy to evacuate braining bleeding, prolonged intubation, and difficult to control seizures
  • Tom, Roger, and Chrissy Williamson – the three children were taken to over 500 doctor appointments, put on medications for epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, etc, and had unnecessary surgeries because their mother made doctors think they were sick
  • Amina Krouser – a 14-year-old who died after a neglected sore throat led to a life-threatening brain infection, for which her mother refused emergency surgery.
  • Christopher Bowen – an 8-year-old who had 13 major surgeries and 323 visits to the hospital because his mother fooled doctors into thinking he had a rare genetic disorder
  • the Oregon mother who’s three kids had unnecessary surgeries and were put on high dose “cocktails” of medicine, including one that she was trying to put in hospice

Trouble can also come when a child gets diagnosed or re-diagnosed with a more controversial condition. That seems to be what happened with Justina Pelletier, a teen who was kept and treated at Boston Children’s Hospital against her parent’s wishes. The doctors there doubted her original diagnosis, that she had a mitochondrial disorder.

“Unfortunately, mitochondrial genetic disorders can be difficult to diagnose, and many affected people may never receive a specific diagnosis. They are often suspected in people who have a condition that effects multiple, unrelated systems of the body.”

NIH on Mitochondrial genetic disorders

Similar to mito disorders, there are other conditions that are often difficult to diagnose, including Ehlers-Danlos, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuro-Psychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS).

Getting diagnosed or treated with these conditions wouldn’t usually be an issue, except that some alternative, holistic, and integrative health care providers take advantage of them. They might even stretch the disease definitions to make them fit almost anyone with vague symptoms and use treatments that many others would consider harmful, or at least unnecessary. It isn’t hard to see that even when a child gets a genuine diagnosis for one of these conditions, it might get questioned because they might have seen others that turned out to be misdiagnosed.

To be clear, these are all very real conditions that are almost certainly under-diagnosed because many doctors still don’t understand them. If you suspect that your child has one of these conditions, or any other rare condition, try and seek out a true expert to confirm the diagnosis. Does everyone who comes to the clinic get a diagnosis and list of supplements to buy? Then that likely isn’t the “expert” you want your kid to see.

Did you know that many of the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctors that once pushed biomed treatments to “cure” autism are now some of the same doctors continuing to push autism biomed treatments, but are now also diagnosing and treating kids with mito disorders.

And remember when all of those kids in LeRoy, New York developed tics for no good reason? One doctor, who actually runs a PANDAS institute, diagnosed many in the cluster with PANDAS.

It shouldn’t be surprising that many of these DAN doctors, including many who are not actually medical doctors, are also in the PANDAS Physicians Network Practitioner Directory.

Are they all cutting edge doctors helping to diagnose and cure kids when no one else can? Or as in the case of their autism biomed treatments, are they taking advantage of people looking for hope wherever they can?

Complicating matters further, some providers also diagnose kids with conditions like adrenal fatigue and chronic Lyme disease that most doctors don’t even think exist!

“Government should not get involved when doctors disagree about a diagnosis or course of treatment, the doctors have full knowledge of the child’s medical record, and a parent chooses one doctor’s opinion over another’s.”

Maxine Eichner on The New Child Abuse Panic

Government should not have to get involved when doctors disagree, but quack doctors shouldn’t be out there taking advantage of people either, especially to the point that it is going to harm a child. When they do, someone needs to step in and protect those kids.

And when you hear a story about a “medical kidnapping,” remember that you typically just get one side of the story. Because of privacy laws, the doctor, hospital, and CPS likely isn’t going to release any details that will help you understand why they felt the child was at risk.

Even more importantly,  when folks tell you that medical child abuse isn’t real and doesn’t happen, tell them about about the victims named above.

What to Know About Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

Challenging and taking away a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their child is something that is typically only done in extreme situations.

More on Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Taz is on a mission “to transform the way we do medicine and empower and equip you with the best tools so you can live your healthiest life.”

While that sounds very nice, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that she seems like every other anti-vaccine quack we run across these days.

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Tasneem Bhatia MD (Dr. Taz) describes herself as a nationally recognized “wellness expert” who became a “pioneer and trailblazer” after overcoming her own personal health problems.

With multiple office locations and membership packages, Dr. Taz is pleased to offer many non-evidenced based services for you and your child, and she will even file your claim forms from your insurance company, although, as expected, she doesn’t actually participate in any insurance plans.

What about vaccines?

“My journey in medicine began with pediatrics, so I am well aware of the importance of vaccines and the incredible history and success of vaccination programs in reducing infant and child mortality.

Yet as my journey continues, I have had to listen to patient after patient describe a change or a shifting in their children once vaccines were administered. I experienced this as a parent. I will never forget the day that my son received a combination vaccine. Within 24 hrs., his mild reflux became severe, his weight gain over the next few months slowed and we continue to play catch up, trying to analyze our next steps. My son, however, is not autistic. He is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute charmer.

My patients and my own children have forced me to rethink this vaccine controversy.”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

Of course, there is no vaccine controversy, except the one that folks like Dr. Taz have created. Like many other vaccine-friendly pediatricians, anecdotes became evidence and quickly overcame years of learning.

And shame on Dr. Taz for implying that autistic kids are not brilliant, hilarious and charmers!

That’s the vaccine controversy. Continuing to push the idea that autistic kids are vaccine damaged and not understanding the simple concept that correlation doesn’t imply causation.

“Red flags for parents that may justify an alternative schedule include”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

While there are true contraindications to getting vaccinated, she doesn’t list any of them, instead pushing anti-vaccine talking points about skipping or delaying vaccines if your child has reflux, colic, or delayed milestones, etc.

But there’s more.

During a visit with Dr. Taz, you can also get your child:

  • a Zyto scan
  • Meridian testing
  • a brain boost evaluation
  • sports optimization testing

And parents can get a detox screen “which will directly correlate with your child’s early ability to detox and process chemicals.”  That’s probably just MTHFR testing, which you don’t need and which doesn’t correlate with much of anything, besides homocystinuria.

Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.
Your diagnostic tests and evaluation, whether it is the Zyto scan or detox screen, likely helps them scare convince you into buying more supplements.

Dr. Taz also offers:

  • acupuncture and Chinese medicine
  • aromatherapy
  • Ayurveda (Indian medicine)
  • energy healing
  • essential oils
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy)
  • homeopathy
  • IV therapy

Now, I understand that these types of holistic docs push the idea of “pulling from conventional, integrative, holistic, functional and Chinese medicine to create the best customized treatment plans possible,” but if any of these alternative therapies worked, whether it was acupuncture or Ayurveda, or homeopathy, then why do they need to integrate them all?

So what services does Dr. Bhatia offer to bring her patients to “whole health”? It’s a veritable cornucopia of quackery. Homeopathy? Check. Acupuncture? Check. (Obviously.) IV vitamin therapy? Check. Oh, and of course Dr. Bhatia offers thermograms. She even offers mobile thermograms. Never mind that thermography remains an unvalidated test for the early detection of breast cancer, much less for all the other conditions for which Dr. Bhatia recommends it, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back injuries, digestive disorders, “and more…”

A commercial for acupuncture masquerading as news

And how does someone go from teaching medical students and residents at Emory University to being one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop experts, along with Kelly Brogan?

Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.
It wasn’t so long ago that Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.

Or from saying vaccines are safe and necessary and that parents shouldn’t expose their kids at chicken pox parties to a few years later saying that we shouldn’t judge Kristin Cavallari because we need more vaccine research.

What motivates these folks?

What to Know About Dr. Taz Bhatia

Dr. Taz promotes herself as an integrative medicine expert who pushes many unproven treatments and has alternative and dangerous views about vaccines and autistic kids.

More on Dr. Taz Bhatia

Those Times Alternative Medicine Got It Wrong

Anti-vaccine folks like to use the fallacy that they don’t vaccinate their kids because sometimes science and doctors have been wrong in the past.

They instead turn to alternative medicine when their kids get sick and for their preventative care.

Those Times Alternative Medicine Got It Wrong

While it is true that science gets it wrong sometimes, these people seem to fail to consider that alternative medicine does too.

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic

More than that, they hardly ever get it right.

Remember the teen with osteosarcoma who died after he was treated with shark cartilage instead of chemotherapy?
Remember the teen with osteosarcoma who died after he was treated with shark cartilage instead of chemotherapy?

Need some examples?

  • Ayurvedic treatments can be contaminated with toxic metals
  • biomed treatments for autism – from restrictive diets and chelation to coffee and bleach enemas, these “cures” and treatments have not been shown to be safe, are sometimes known to be dangerous, and don’t even work
  • Cannabis Oil for kids with cancer – while marijuana-derived products might help some medical conditions, it doesn’t cure cancer
  • chiropractic neck manipulation of newborns and infants has no benefits and has caused deaths
  • chronic Lyme disease is not a recognized condition in modern medicine, but that doesn’t keep some ‘Lyme literate’ practitioners from recommending and charging patients for all sorts of unnecessary and sometimes harmful “treatments”
  • faith healing is still allowing children to die of very treatable conditions, from diabetes and appendicitis to common infections and premature babies
  • Gerson protocol – often discussed with other forms of cancer quackery this “radical nutritional program combined with purges (particularly coffee enemas)” is believed by some to cure cancer – it doesn’t
  • HIV denialism – yes, this is a thing, and tragically took the life of Christine Maggiore, her daughter, and many others who eventually died of AIDS
  • homemade baby formula – notorious for leaving out important nutrients, from iron vitamin D to enough calories for a growing baby
  • Hoxsey treatment – a natural treatment for cancer that has been around since the 1950s and has never been shown to work, except in people who never actually had cancer
  • laetrile for cancer – in the late-1970s, kids with treatable forms of cancer had parents who were convinced that this latest fad cure was better. It wasn’t.
  • naturopathy – although mostly looked at as a holistic alternative to other providers, some of these treatments include vitamin injections, hydrogen peroxide injections, and alternative cancer therapies
  • shark cartilage – this was the fad cancer cure in the 1990s that was killing kids who’s parents sought alternative cancer treatments. It didn’t work.

What’s the harm with these treatments?

Many, like Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Reiki, and Reflexology, etc., aren’t necessarily dangerous on their own. In fact, most don’t do anything at all, but they can lead people away from real treatments. And that essentially leaves people untreated.

Getting a fake treatment might not be a big deal when it is a condition that can go away on its own, like when Angelina Jolie talked about getting acupuncture when she had Bell’s Palsy, but it often leads to disastrous consequences when a life-threatening condition goes untreated.

Many people who push these alternative “treatments” often also recommend against standard treatments, like vitamin K shots for newborns, RhoGAM shots for their moms, and vaccines.

Those Times Anti-Vaccine Experts Got It Wrong

It shouldn’t be surprising that many of the folks who think that vaccines are dangerous, aren’t necessary, or that they don’t even work also believe in holistic or alternative treatments.

It also shouldn’t be surprising that they are also wrong a lot:

  • Meryl Dorey – equates vaccination with rape, something many of her followers aren’t even comfortable with
  • Mark and David Geier – this father and son pair are infamous for pushing a chemical castration treatment (Lupron) for autistic children, a treatment that led to Mark Geier losing his medical license (he’s a geneticist) in several states.
  • Jay Gordon, MD – once made the comment that “Heaven help us if we have a generation of kids who get a hepatitis B vaccine and a HPV vaccine and they think that now unprotected sex is okay…” Not surprisingly, studies have found that this doesn’t happen. In fact, teen pregnancy rates are at their lowest levels ever.
  • Suzanne Humphries, MD – a nephrologist who became a homeopath and now pushes anti-vaccine talking points, believes that vaccines don’t work and that polio never really disappeared, and that we don’t “see it anymore” because we changed its name to acute flaccid paralysis.
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr – continues to push the idea that thimerosal in vaccines is causing an autism epidemic.
  • Neil Z. Miller – a psychologist who has written many anti-vax books, gives lectures at chiropractic associations, and published his daughter’s book, Ambassadors Between Worlds, Intergalactic Gateway to a New Earth, which describes how they are both able to talk to intergalatic beings because she has been doing it for multiple lifetimes. No word yet if folks from the Pleiadians vaccinate their kids…
  • Tetyana Obukhanych, MD – the Harvard trained immunologist who believes that Immunology has no theoretical or evidence-based explanation for immunity.
  • Viera Scheibner – the micropaleontologist who thinks that getting a vaccine-preventable disease is good for kids, that vaccines are contaminated with amoebas, and that they cause SIDS and shaken baby syndrome
  • Bob Sears, MD – infamous for his alternative vaccine schedule that was never tested for safety or efficacy, he and now rallies folks against California’s new vaccine law
  • Stephanie Seneff – the MIT doctor (she has a doctorate in electrical engineering) who thinks that half of kids will have autism in eight years and that glyphosate causes everything from autism to school shootings and terrorist bombings.
  • Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD – an immunologist who heads the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases and is on the scientific advisory board for the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute. He is the latest to blame adjuvants for causing disease – his Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants (ASIA), which is often described as being a “basically a made-up syndrome that isn’t generally accepted.”
  • Sherri Tenpenny, DO – described as an anti-vax “expert” whose advise is “chock full of vaccine pseudoscience.” Once board certified in emergency medicine, Dr. Tenpenny now sells DVDs and supplements on her website, speaks at chiropractic health events, and provides holistic medical care. In a rant about freedom of choice in vaccination, she talks about General Robert E. Lee, Southern war hero and postwar icon of the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” the extinction of humanity, and about slavery and eight veils that must be pierced if you want to see what is really going on in the world – that the Illuninati and other secret organizations control us and that they are being controlled by time traveling dragons, lizards, and aliens.
  • Tim O’Shea, DC – a chiropractor, he speaks at anti-vax conferences and wrote an anti-vaccination book called The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination is not Immunization. Dr. O’Shea does not believe that germs make us sick (germ theory denialism), thinks that vaccines cause peanut allergies, and he sells supplements and seminars.
  • Kelly Brogan, MD – a holistic psychiatric who recommends that patients wean off their prescribed medications and has talked about HIV denialism.
  • Erin Elizabeth – is pushing the idea that holistic practitioners are being murdered

And of course there is Andrew Wakefield – his scandal and MMR-autism fraud is well known.

Are these folks ever right?

Only if you buy into their anti-vaccine talking points.

What to Know About When Alternative Medicine Was Wrong

Alternative medicine is rarely right, and that can have life-threatening consequences when it leads folks to reject traditional treatments when they are really sick.

More on When Alternative Medicine Was Wrong

Elderberry and Oscillococcinum to Treat the Flu

Have you heard of using Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum to treat the flu?

How about taking high-dose Elderberry syrup as part of your post-flu vaccination care plan?

Or taking Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum as part of a flu prevention protocol?

Do Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum Treat the Flu?

Do you think that Oscillococcinum can really treat flu symptoms?
Do you think that Oscillococcinum can really treat flu symptoms?

Even if you have heard of Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum, you may not know what they really are or what they really do…

Elderberry syrup (Sambucol) is supposed to help you get over cold and flu symptoms quicker. Maybe it does, at least in mice with the flu.

Not surprisingly, there is no strong evidence that elderberry works.

What about Oscillococcinum?

As much as Oscillococcinum costs, it must work, right?

Nope.

What Is Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum?

Surprisingly, these natural “flu fighters” are sold in most pharmacies, so the average person has no idea that they aren’t real medicine.

Not real medicine?

Does that make them alternative medicine?

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic?

So Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum fall into the category of medicine that doesn’t work.

That still doesn’t help you understand what they are though…

Elderberry syrup is made from the berries of the European elder tree (and lots of sugar to make it taste sweet). While it is sold like a traditional cough and cold medicine, it is just another herbal remedy.

What’s in Oscillococcinum?

Active Ingredients:
Anas Barbariae Hepatis Et Cordis Extractum 200 CK HPUS

No berries or herbs in Oscillococcinum.

And not much of anything else either.

“Since 1925, Oscillococcinum has been prepared as follows. Into a one litre bottle, a mixture of pancreatic juice and glucose is poured. Next a Canard de Barbarie is decapitated and 35 grams of its liver and 15 grams of its heart are put into the bottle. Why liver? Doctor Roy writes: “The Ancients considered the liver as the seat of suffering, even more important than the heart, which is a very profound insight, because it is on the level of the liver that the pathological modifications of the blood happen, and also there the quality of the energy of our heart muscle changes in a durable manner.” Maybe the French tendency to call any form of not well-being a “crise de foie” (“bilious attack”) had also something to do with it. After 40 days in the sterile bottle, liver and heart autolyse (disintegrate) into a kind of goo, which is then “potentized” with the Korsakov method.”

Jan Willem Nienhuys on The True Story of Oscillococcinum

Wait.

Whose pancreatic juice do they use? The ducks?

While all of that sounds gross, if you have taken Oscillococcinum, you can rest assured that you haven’t eaten any duck heart, duck liver, or pancreatic juice.

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine and so that mixture is diluted so much, it is impossible that any of the original “medicine” is still in those little sugar pills.

Why People Buy Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum

So if they don’t work, why do so many people buy these products?

As I said, many people don’t know that they are anything different than all of the other traditional cold and flu treatments on store shelves. After all, most pharmacies don’t have a section or shelf for medicine that doesn’t work.

We see the same thing when parents buy homeopathic teething medicines, colic tablets, pain and fever reducers, pinkeye drops, and cough syrup.

Unfortunately,  since there are few good options to treat cold and flu symptoms, especially in younger kids, they buy Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum. It is also the remedy that is pushed on many anti-vaccine websites and by holistic pediatricians.

What to Know About Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum

Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum have not been shown to work to treat the flu or flu symptoms and are mainly pushed by alternative medical providers.

More on Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Are there any alternatives to getting vaccinated?

Sure. You can read about them all day long from holistic “experts” and on anti-vaccine websites.

Are there any good alternatives to getting vaccinated?

No. At least not if you want to be truly protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Kids who are born with immune disorders don't have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection.
Kids who are born with immune disorders don’t have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection. Photo by Baylor College of Medicine

Unfortunately, some folks don’t have other options and they need to look at an alternative for protection from vaccine-preventable diseases that doesn’t include vaccines.

These are the folks with contraindications or true medical exemptions for vaccines.

What do they do?

It depends on the specific circumstances, but in most cases, except for live vaccines or any other specific vaccine that is contraindicated, they usually get vaccinated.

Extremely few people can’t get at least some, if not most, of their vaccines, even if they do have contraindications to some others. And many exemptions are temporary.

“Parents need to balance the need of the immunoreconstituted child (post-transplant SCID) to be protected from exposure to infection from live vaccines and close contact–transmitted vaccine-derived infection with the need of the child to integrate into society and develop social and learning skills in group environments.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

They also try to avoid people who are sick and  try to make sure that everyone around them is vaccinated to help maintain herd immunity levels of protection.

Neither is always possible though.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Post-exposure prophylaxis is another option that is available to help prevent some vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, if your unvaccinated child is exposed to measles, they can often receive immune globulin to help them avoid getting measles.

Regimens for post-exposure prophylaxis are also available for:

  • chicken pox – varicella zoster immune globulin or immune globulin
  • diphtheria – antibiotics
  • hepatitis A – immune globulin
  • hepatitis B – hepatitis B immune globulin
  • influenza – oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir
  • meningococcal disease – antibiotics
  • pertussis – antibiotics
  • rabies – rabies immune globulin
  • tetanus – tetanus immune globulin

When possible, immunization typically accompanies these post-exposure prophylaxis regimens.

There is one big problem with these types of post-exposure prophylaxis regimens though. You are not always going to know when your child is exposed to someone else with a vaccine-preventable disease. While some exposures might be obvious, like if your child steps on a rusty nail or is bitten by an unvaccinated dog who has rabies, you might miss some others.

Bogus Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

What other alternatives to getting vaccinated are out there?

Unfortunately, there are none that work.

Many bogus alternatives to getting vaccinated are pushed by those opposed to vaccines as ways to boost your immunity, and they can include:

  • breastfeeding – while breastfeeding is great and always encouraged, the passive immunity it provides will not protect your baby from most vaccine-preventable diseases, as it contains IgA antibodies, not the IgG antibodies you would need to prevent diseases like measles, tetanus, chicken pox, and Hib, etc.
  • homeopathic vaccines – nosodes are homeopathic vaccines that have been diluted so much that they are supposed to retain a memory of the original substance. Even if they did – that’s not how immunology works.
  • herbs – neither echinacea, goldenseal root, nor elderberry syrup is going to boost your child’s immunity
  • vitamins – unless your child is severely vitamin deficient, taking vitamins isn’t going to boost their immunity, whether they are taking extra vitamin C or extra vitamin D
  • foods – Japanese mushrooms, kale, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, avocados, ginger, black currants, graviola, green veggies, onion seeds, and berries might all be great to eat, but they aren’t going to boost your immunity
  • probiotics – they may help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, but there is not much evidence that taking them regularly does anything else
  • essential oils – they sometimes smell nice, but they aren’t going to boost your child’s immune system
  • chiropractic adjustments – not going to work
  • sun exposure – in addition to the worries about skin cancer, not only does extra sun exposure not boost your immune system, the WHO reports that “Several studies have demonstrated that exposure to environmental levels of UV radiation alters the activity and distribution of some of the cells responsible for triggering immune responses in humans. Consequently, sun exposure may enhance the risk of infection with viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections, which has been demonstrated in a variety of animal models.”
  • fermented cod liver oil – this is not going to boost your child’s immune system, but folks should also know that there have been reports that the products that people have been buying and using for years were rancid and actually making them sick! There are much better ways to get vitamin D and vitamin A in your diet than taking fermented cod liver oil each day.

What about natural immunity?

While natural immunity can in some ways be more effective than vaccine induced immunity, it often comes at a price. You have to recover from the disease, hopefully without any long term consequences, to develop natural immunity.

What to Know About Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

People who truly can’t be vaccinated rely on herd immunity, because in most cases, there are no effective alternatives for vaccines.

More On Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Victoria Anderson is a Family Nurse Practitioner who understands and promotes childhood immunizations.
Victoria Anderson is a Family Nurse Practitioner who understands and promotes childhood immunizations.

We know that the great majority of health professionals understand the evidence that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary.

Most parents too.

Some still haven’t gotten the message though.

From the nurses who refuse to get vaccinated, even though they are routinely around high risk children, to other health care providers who push the idea that it is okay to skip or delay some vaccines, they all put our kids at risk.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just vaccine-friendly pediatricians who are pushing non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules and who are leaving kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

“One would anticipate that this medical advance would be universally embraced by both parents and health care professionals. Sadly, however, the antivaccine movement, fueled by a lack of respect for the evidence and a profound paranoia, remains alive and well. It is not an overstatement to lay the blame for a resurgence of deadly childhood infections, stemming from declining vaccination rates, at the feet of this movement. Nurse practitioners (NP) also bear some degree of the blame. While certainly not scientific, the anecdotal evidence from letters to JNP documents that some proportion of our readers buy into the pseudoscience of the antivaccine movement. Comments have ranged from bafflingly uninformed (“I don’t think there is enough evidence to support widespread immunizations”) to profoundly unethical (“I recommend to my patients that they not vaccinate their children”).”

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP on The Importance of Vaccinations

They are often joined by one or more vaccine-friendly nurse practitioners…

Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Of course, most nurse practitioners support getting kids vaccinated and protected though.

That’s reflected in the position statement of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP):

“NAPNAP supports the prioritization of immunization education for parents, guardians and other caregivers of infants, children, and adolescents. This education must include the most current scientific evidence related to vaccine safety, risk, benefits and current resources available to ensure that parents and caregivers receive adequate information about immunizations. This includes, when necessary, relaying the risk of not immunizing their child and potential devastation that can occur when a child is infected with a vaccine-preventable disease. It is incumbent that a PNP also be aware of misinformation in the public domain and provides the correct information to the public as well as the health care community.”

Fortunately, most NPs do a great job educating parents and getting kids vaccinated.

Not all of them though.

You can still find some pushing classic anti-vaccine propaganda about vaccines being made in China, that vaccines don’t work, that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t dangerous, and that natural treatments work are safer – including many, like essential oils and vitamins that they will be very happy to sell to you.

“It’s time for NPs to be part of the solution. We must preach the importance of vaccines, and then we must practice what we preach and be appropriately immunized ourselves.”

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP on The Importance of Vaccinations

Actually, it’s time for everyone to get educated and to be part of the solution!

What To Know About Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Like the great majority of other health care providers, most nurse practitioners fully support getting kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

More About Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines