Worst idea ever: "Natural" alternatives to the Epipen

[NOTE added 12/23/2015: It would appear that the offending article has been taken down. I, of course, have screenshots, and, of course, the Google cached version is still around for the moment.]

Anaphylaxis can be deadly. Anaphylaxis can kill. More than that, anaphylaxis can kill pretty quickly.

Even the most dimwitted purveyor of "natural" cures should know that and stay away from "natural" treatments for anaphylaxis, while the smarter snake oil salesmen also know that you can't afford to mess around with a medical condition that can cause such rapid deterioration from seemingly perfectly health to dead. It's not good for business. Yes, "allergies" (often exaggerated, made up, or nonexistent) are a major focus of an incredible amount of woo, but the most serious, hardcore consequences of real allergies, anaphylactic reactions, are something that, thankfully, most quacks stay as far away from as possible. Heck, I even searched Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com, and the only mention I saw of Epipens had nothing to do with suggesting that there are "natural" alternatives to them, although there were claims that quack treatments of allergies can reduce the need for them.

So what am I to make of an article I saw in the Gazette Review by a freelancer named Adam Trent last week entitled Natural Alternatives to Epipen? Let me just repeat that one time. There is an actual article in an actual media outlet entitled Natural Alternatives to Epipen out there. The irresponsibility boggles the mind. As you will see, the most charitable description of this article is that it is muddled and full of misinformation. The least charitable, but probably more accurate, description of it is that it is full of downright dangerous misinformation that could well lead someone to do something stupid enough to result in death. After all, an Epipen is nothing more than a simple-to-use rapid injector that delivers a specified dose of epinephrine. It's designed to be used as emergency out-of-hospital treatment of an anaphylactic reaction.

The stupidity in this article begins with a photo featured in the article, which looks to me like an insulin pen. I kid you not. This is the photo in the article represented as an Epipen:

This is not an Epipen. This is not an Epipen.

 

And this is what an Epipen looks like:

That's an Epipen! Now, that's an Epipen!

 

It really doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when the writer and editor don't know enough about Epipens to be able to tell the difference—or when they don't even bother to go to the Epipen website or Google the word "Epipen" to find photos of Epipens. [Note: I see that either the editor or Trent has replaced the original insulin injector photo with a photo of an actual Epipen since my post went live. As of this writing, the Google cached version (of which I took a screenshot that I might add to the post later) still shows the original photo of the insulin pen.]

It gets worse right from the very first passages. Right after pointing out that anaphylaxis is a "serious medical condition" (no kidding, Dr. House) that "can be fatal when left unchecked" (well, duh!), we're treated to this passage:

Epipen is an autoinjector used to administer a select dose of epinephrine to relieve anaphylaxis. It is a must in every first aid kit, and should be readily available especially when you or a loved one is susceptible to such dangerous reactions. Effective as it may be, epipen is not without any risk when used. The injector can cause complications to the vein where it was injected, not to mention the chance of triggering symptoms like chest pain, headache, and irregular heartbeat. Epipen also does not prevent future anaphylaxis attacks.

Yes, but these complications are far superior to being dead.

Also, one notes that the Epipen is not meant to be injected into a vein. The instructions on how to use an Epipen are described explicitly to minimize the possibility of an accidental injection into a vein. Instructions say to inject into the lateral (outer) side of the thigh because there are large muscles there and no major veins. Users are cautioned not to inject into the buttock because an inadvertent venous injection can occur. Yes, an intramuscular dose of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) can result in rapid heartbeat, headache, and the like. And, yes, if you inject into a distal extremity (hands or feet) you can endanger the blood supply to your digits. Yes, if you accidentally hit a vein you can cause tachycardia and arrhythmias that, in a worst case scenario, can lead to cardiac arrest. Those risks, however, are worth taking if the alternative is death right now due to...anaphylaxis!

Even sillier is the observation that Epipen does not prevent future anaphylaxis. Why might this be? Hmmm... One wonders, one does. Oh, yes, I remember. It's because the purpose of Epipen is to save the life of someone on the verge of or in the middle of suffering a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction! it is not intended to prevent future attacks.

So what is the "alternative"? Well, take a look at a paragraph with what has to be one of the single most irresponsible pieces of medical advice that I've ever seen, and that's saying something, given my eleven year history of taking on quackery and pseudoscience:

For Epipen’s natural alternatives, these herbs and remedies bring relief, encourage the prevention of future attacks, and build the body’s immunity against allergies. However, these said alternatives do not work as fast as Epipen, so do not expect it as an emergency immediate relief. Coupled with a healthier lifestyle, regular exercise, and an avoidance to vices, there is a greater chance of avoiding that next allergic attack, or at least minimizing its severity.

Bring relief? From an attack of anaphylaxis? Seriously? They don't "work as fast as Epipen"? "Do not expect it as an emergency medical relief"? That's the deadly understatement of the decade! It seems that the Trent of this piece wants to have it both ways, to claim that he's writing about "natural" alternatives to Epipen without specifically directly claiming that what he is writing about can stop an anaphylactic reaction.

Meanwhile, the things he recommends seem—at best—disconnected from the entire issue of doing what Epipen does. For example, the first thing mentioned is the Neti pot:

The use of these pots may sound unpleasant, but many people swear by its efficacy in epipen-alternative-neti-potrelieving allergy problems. Neti pots flush out debris and mucus that have pent up in the nose, an act also known as nasal irrigation. The practice originated in the ancient Indian healing system Ayurveda and is also part of the Yogic body purification practice Shatkarma. Neti pots are the main containers used for nasal irrigation. It is done by sticking the spout in one nostril, inhaling the water or solution stored in the pot, and then letting it flow out of the other nostril. Studies attest to the efficacy of neti pots, however long term use is not recommended as it can weaken the nasal shield against foreign substances. Make sure that the water you use in the pot is sterile, as you do not want to exacerbate your allergy by using tap water. You can also use essential oils (more on that below) in your neti pot.

While it is true that Neti pots can be used for nasal irrigation and provide short term relief from nasal symptoms due to colds or allergies, neti pots are not recommended for long term usage, as they increase the risk of recurrent infection, apparently through weakening the body's mucosal defenses. What this has to do with being a "natural" alternative to Epipen, I don't know.

The same applies to the other remedies as well, all of which appear to be being sold as nothing more than allergy relief. For example, here are some essential oils that are recommended:

  • Eucalyptus – This oil contains a strong scent that ensures a smooth flow of secretions that plague your respiratory tract. It also relieves headaches that come along with allergy attacks as it enhances the flow of blood in the brain. Always dilute it with a carrier oil first (like coconut oil) prior to use with a steam inhaler or neti pot.
  • Lavender – Simply drop some lavender oil on your palms or a cotton ball then inhale. In case of blocked sinuses and chest congestion, rub the oil on your chest and cheeks. The oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties that can remedy your allergies while helping you relax with its calming effects.
  • Lemon – A known disinfectant that both cleanses and refreshes. Lemon encourages better blood flow and unclogs the airways, and it works better in conjunction with other essential oils. The oil can be rubbed on your forehead and chest, and it can be stirred in both cold and warm drinks for it to work internally.

Of course, the article neglects to point out that allergies to plant oils like this are common. Even quacks who sell essential oils point out that if you have allergies, asthma, or food intolerances, you are likely to be more prone to develop contact dermatitis or allergic reactions to these oils. This makes sense, of course, because these oils are derived from plants and contain complex organic molecules.

Other items on the list of "alternatives to Epipen" include quercetin, alfalfa, apple cider vinegar, and various vitamins and minerals. Evidence for the efficacy of these "powerful medicinal herbs" against anaphylactic reactions—or even just against your run-of-the-mill allergic reactions or allergy symptoms—is presented for exactly zero of these suggestions.

I hear some of you saying (or imagine some of you thinking): So what? This article isn't really recommending these things as alternatives to an Epipen. It's just recommending them as a way of alleviating allergies, whether there's any evidence or not that they do such a thing and even in the face of evidence that some of the proposed remedies can actually provoke allergic reactions. Here's the problem. Even if the intent wasn't to discourage use of the Epipen, the underlying message is that epinephrine injections are somehow not "natural" and that it is better to avoid using it. Never mind that there is no evidence that neti pots, lavender oil, or alfalfa (to pick three, but the same applies to all of these examples) can do anything to alleviate even mild allergic reactions, much less severe ones, or to decrease the frequency of anaphylactic reactions. It's incredible that any reputable website would post something so irresponsible around the holidays, when pediatricians are cautioning parents on how to avoid anaphylactic reactions, given that children with severe food allergies are more likely to come into contact with foods to which they are allergic during holiday parties.

One of the commenters put it quite well when he pointed out, "Adrenaline is not the new gluten, where everyone is free to (erroneously) self-diagnose and replace it with the miracle natural therapy of the week." Except that perhaps it is, even though epinephrine is just as natural as every one of those "natural" alternatives, given that it's a normal chemical produced by the body, which uses it as a neurotransmitter and hormone. I hope I'm wrong about this, though, and avoidance of "unnatural" epinephrine is not becoming a trend.

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" ...build the body’s immunity against allergies."

How does this statement even make sense?

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Wow that is scary. I thought homeopathic rescue inhalers were dangerous but this might be even worse.

And that author is ignorant and clearly too lazy to do even the most basic research. Besides the insulin needle (which has been replaced with an actual EpiPen) and the injecting into veins thing there was this:

It is a must in every first aid kit

Except that EpiPens are prescription only because, as Orac notes epinephrine can be very dangerous.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Checking the author's other articles for the same outfit, we find...

Natural Alternatives to Estradiol – How To Increase Estradiol Naturally

Natural Alternatives to Estrogen – Naturally Increase Estrogen Levels

What Happened to Heath Ledger – The Story Behind How He Died

Natural Alternatives to Ensure

Natural Alternatives to Desitin

Best Cyber Monday 2015 Gun Deals and Firearm Specials

It was at this point I stopped. Irresponsibility seems to be his shtick.

However, these said alternatives

I sense a job opportunity for Lowell Hubbs.

I am normally a petty level-headed person, but I think the person behind this article deserves some time-out. In a prison cell. Simpletons out there might follow the advice and simply pay with their lives.

I swear.. when I think I"ve seen it all, the level drops lower

” …build the body’s immunity against allergies.”

How does this statement even make sense?

It doesn't. Like much of the rest of the article. But that doesn't matter to the author. He is telling his readers what they want to hear: that every medical invention has a natural alternative and if you live a healthy life eating only organic vegan food and take huge amounts of supplements that only we can sell you, your life will be perfect.

To be fair, Adam Trent doesn't seem to think these things, but seems to have recognised writing about such things provides more click throughs than writing about the best vacuum deals for Black Friday.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Splitting some incredibly fine hairs, you could give epi via an endotracheal tube or tracheostomy tube for anaphylaxis (if, ya know, you just happen to already have one in place at the onset of anaphylaxis) so as to avoid using epi pen (but not epi). I suppose, also, you could perform a cricothyrotomy for anaphylaxis instead of epi, though that does nothing for the hypotension of anaphylaxis.

I remember once reading how you could "scare" yourself out of an asthma attack by triggering one's fight or flight response. I can't find the link, but I thought it was perhaps the worst idea ever--until this.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Oooh! Oooh! So, all I need is a neti pot, some lavender oil and lemon oil and I can throw away my epi pen and start eating pineapple and using an ACE inhibitor? Yahoo! This is even better than when I found out I could throw away my Spiriva and Dulera and buy a homeopathic inhaler!

Jeebus. Thanks for calling this out. You'd think that the beancounters would've squelched the article, if for no other reason than to reduce their risk exposure.

@ Not a Troll / Chris Preston

” …build the body’s immunity against allergies.”

How does this statement even make sense?

In the Alt-Med world, issues with one's immune system happen because the immune system is not reactive enough, it needs to be cleaned and stimulated.
Hence, neti pots, detox cures, and herbal/vitamins supplements.

That allergies are an over-reaction of the immune system is sailing completely over their head.
They are the same people talking about reverting diabetes, including the insulin-dependent type.

Their is the realm of unicorns and fairy dust.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Looking on the bright side of death, the eucalyptus, lavender and lemon oil found by the body could be used during the viewing at the funeral parlor.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Analogy to diabeties, it's like injecting a left handed sugar in place of insulin.

By Mdochniak@yahoo.com (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Almost as bad?

( via PRN.fm= where else?) I've heard this several times in the past few months ( something new)

( paraphrase) if you think you're having a heart attack, quickly swallow several vitamin C tablets, cayenne pepper and a few other quackish specialities ( no aspirins)
it will stop a heart attack posthaste!
One should always carry the assorted nonsense around -just in case.
Also- "an onion a day ( raw) keeps a stroke away"

I swear I didn't make this up.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Sounds a lot like the side effects of getting into a car crash wearing a seat belt. I can't wait for the new, gentler alternative to the seat belt. It might not prevent your decapitation this time, but sure's of help in making the next one more comfortable.

@ Denice #14--don't forget to carry a toilet plunger so you can do your own chest compressions and a piece of wool in your pocket so you can rub your hands on it to build up enough static charge to defibrillate your heart.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Coupled with a healthier lifestyle, regular exercise, and an avoidance to vices

I'm supposed to avoid vices? What fun is that?

wtf!??!???!

god i hope people aren't this f'n stupid

Not a Troll says (#1),

” …build the body’s immunity against allergies.”

How does this statement even make sense?

MJD says,

Immunology 101:

Allergen immunotherapy is one way to build the body's immunity against allergies :-)

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ Chris Hickie:

Sure.
Don't laugh but once a woo-fraught person advised me to brew hawthorne and foxglove tea as a substitute for SB meds for my father.
I didn't want to inherit his money quickly.

-btw- Those evil meds kept him going for a very long time.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

^ It sounds as if some want the reassurance of being in control of what happens to them to a unattainable degree and in dysfunctional ways. After rabbit's feet and lucky charms were debunked, they've been replaced by pseudoscientific talismans (with the added benefit of being more lucrative to the sellers).

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

A woodiot once suggested to my uncle, severe type A hemophiliac, that he try "hard, deep tissue massage" to "free the toxins" allegedly contributing to his disease.

The stupid...

@ Delphine:

Toxins wouldn't be the only things it 'freed'.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Helianthus says (#10),

That allergies are an over-reaction of the immune system is sailing completely over their head.

MJD says,

Is having an allergic reaction to a component in a vaccine an over-reaction?

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

However, these said alternatives do not work as fast as Epipen, so do not expect it as an emergency immediate relief.

So what is the point of this alleged alternative to the Epipen? It sounds like attempting to fix your screen door while your house is on fire.The screen door, or whatever underlying medical condition caused the patient to need an Epipen, can wait until after you have dealt with the emergency.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

I can't get past the irony of advocating for a "natural" alternative to a hormone our bodies already produce naturally: we just give it in a concentrated dose to treat anaphalaxis and some other conditions.

@25 -- I've had people come in and say they're allergic to steroids...so of course i explained that they'd already be dead long before the level of stupidity they acheived as an adult.

Having very serious allergies myself, I've spent some time looking into the idea that I have a "weak" immune system. Apparently the problem is that my weak little system overreacts to allergens, just as a small child might lash out at a bully with their ineffective little punches, while the calm grownup immune system just smiles and ignores the foolish hexavalent chromium molecules as being beneath her notice.

I do hope this enlightens y'all narrow minded science types.

By Christine Rose (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Our resident American Loon seems to not understand what an Anaphylaxis reaction is, or how quickly it occurs.

I wonder if this was in response to people searching for a natural alternative due to the outrageous price increases on epi pens in the last couple years. I used to be able to get a single epi pen for less than $100, now they are only sold in 2 packs for several hundred $. That puts this emergency medication out of reach for some people, even with insurance.

I had a browse through some of the "health" articles at the Gazette Review and found a remarkable similarity to health-related articles at eHow. Most are written by "writers" who mistake the (in many cases dubious) ability to string some words together with the ability to provide useful, accurate information. It certainly looks to me like their primary objective is career building.

There was a time, not so long ago, that digging out information on just about any topic, but science and medicine in particular, involved expeditions to libraries and considerable investment in time. Not so much anymore. Writers like Adam Trent have no excuses but laziness and willful ignorance. The same could be said of the management of the Gazette Review.

” …build the body’s immunity against allergies.”

How does this statement even make sense?

I have recently taken the medical coding boards and did the review from the American Academy of Professional Coders and was taught that "IgE protects against allergies."

It.. it's like he's confusing Epipens for Claritin. You don't use an Epipen for hay fever or a runny nose. Irrigating your nose and inhaling some lavender oil will do nothing to prevent you from going into shock if you're allergic to shellfish let alone have any kind of therapeutic effect for a food allergy.

Coupled with a healthier lifestyle, regular exercise, and an avoidance to vices, there is a greater chance of avoiding that next allergic attack, or at least minimizing its severity.

So very good to know the next time I'm stung by wasps. The epipen also comes with a practice injector which was quite useful for my children to understand how to administer an epipen.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

"quercetin, alfalfa, apple cider vinegar" as an alternative to a epi-pen?

Fuck that.

Hiking in the deep woods a friend, missing the epi-pens that he had left behind, got stung and he started to swell up and have trouble breathing. We barely made by buying time with very strong coffee and diphenhydramine (as recommended by a wilderness medicine manual we had trained with) until we could carry him to a dirt track and flag down a ranger. He was turning blue and losing the battle. We piled in and had a wild ride, lights and sirens, powering through the sugar sand in the turns, to a clinic where adrenaline saved him. Ten minutes later he was weak but looking good.

Epi-pens save lives. Accept no substitutes.

Mindy, prices for EpiPens in the US seem to be uniformly much higher than in Canada. I checked at a Costco pharmacy a couple of months ago (when there was a serious shortage, due to a recall on the competitive Allerject) and the price was just under $100 Canadian. Since they are available without prescription in Canada, we also don't have to pay the "dispensing fee" that typically adds another $4-$7.

Asking for a friend:

Is there a natural alternative to snake antivenom? The current antivenom does not guarantee prevention from future snake bites, so I... my friend would like to see if there is something more natural and with less chances of complications.

Thanks.

These people are going to be responsible for deaths. I mean really how stupid to you have to be to write that nonsense? The side effects of a dose of epi aren't very pleasant, watched my mom lying on a gurney shaking with hot blankets wrapped around her. But she'd take the side effects over dying after a wasp sting. She is violently allergic to them.

"Coupled with a healthier lifestyle, regular exercise, and an avoidance to vices, there is a greater chance of avoiding that next allergic attack, or at least minimizing its severity."

Wha'? "Avoidance to vices."??!? So, as a kid with severe food allergies (that I've mostly out-grown) that included eggs and anything make with eggs, part of my problem was that I didn't avoid vices?

By SelenaWolf (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Well, those "people" are going to have a bad time.....

@27 Christine: Your post is not making much sense, given that people have allergic reactions to all kinds of things, and someone who is severely allergic to shellfish might be OK with peanuts and vice versa. I wouldn't call it a weak immune system, I'd call it an overactive one, but selectively over active. Just what is your point?

@#30 Mindy: You're really not paying for the medication. You're paying for the auto injector. When the technology changes, they can put it under patent again and charge a fortune. Same thing happened with Albuterol; when they changed the propellant it went back under patent and something that used to cost 10 bucks was costing over 100.

Honestly, the more I read this article, the more I'm convinced that the author isn't really trying to segway the discussion into pretty mundane forms of woo. In other words, the Epipen is hook to lure the reader into the real discussion and convince people non-medicines are actually good for you.

Problem is, none of the "solutions" he proposes would do a damn thing to fix or prevent an anaphalactic reaction, and do precious little for mundane allergy symptoms.

For a lot of families, having to come up with $415 (after insurance, yearly because they expire) to prevent a reaction that MIGHT happen, could be a true hardship. So I can understand the urge to click on a link to an article as absurd as this, which is probably why it was written. Maybe the writer isn't the one with the worst idea ever after all.

@Mindy: There is much about the US insurance system that is less than optimal, if not downright evil. But that's a separate issue from what this post is discussing. The article Orac is fisking here is claiming that there are alternatives to the epi pen, but the claimed alternatives do not hold up under scrutiny.

As for financial matters: I haven't done the arithmetic on this case (because I haven't had occasion to price the products involved), but it frequently happens that alt-med treatments are comparable or higher in cost than what science-based medical treatments cost. Needless to say, insurance companies don't reimburse for the cost of these alternative treatments, either. Here, the insurance companies do have a point: it makes no sense for either the patient or the insurer to pay for treatments that don't work.

If you've been lurking here for any length of time, you will have seen Orac and/or the commentariat mention the so-called pharma shill gambit: that science-based medical doctors such as Orac recommend those treatments because they get kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. It's pure projection: many of the people who push alt-med treatments are themselves selling the products they recommend, and as I said, these products are frequently not cheap.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

"It is done by sticking the spout in one nostril, INHALING the water or solution stored in the pot, and then letting it flow out of the other nostril. " (my emphasis)

No no no, inhaling water is a BAD idea, of course if you do you won't need to use an epipen ...

I do use a neti pot on occasion, it's not as good as hot and sour soup etc for clearing out the tubes, but it does help when the antihistamine isn't providing enough relief. However you do NOT inhale the water, you just put your head on one side then let the water trickle in the top nostril and out the bottom. And using essential oils near my already inflammed nasal membranes would just be painful.

My anecdote? This is actually a thing, unfortunately. A woman I went to high school with posted on facebook that her daughter was diagnosed with severe peanut allergy. She has used woo in the past, so of course, many of her friends chimed in with a list of 'natural' essential oils that she should use instead of the 'scary' epi-pen.

Thankfully, she didn't heed their advice, but man, did that make my blood boil. Some self-appointed important person, in the vein of a Rubagreta deciding to play 'Dr' and give what is quite literally deadly advice, and giving advice that would kill someone ELSE'S child. So infuriating.

"Even if the intent wasn’t to discourage use of the Epipen, the underlying message is that epinephrine injections are somehow not “natural” and that it is better to avoid using it."

To expand on your point, it drives me CRAZY when they act as though essential oils, compounds that are FOREIGN to our body and have never been a 'natural' part of our biochemistry is declared to be more 'natural' then an endogenous hormone that our bodies make and use.

Apparently because it is administered via 'unnatural' injection, that scares them into thinking it must be bad...

I had a browse through some of the “health” articles at the Gazette Review and found a remarkable similarity to health-related articles at eHow.

Ding! That thing has "content farm" written all over it. I'm not even convinced that the author is a native English speaker.

My best guess is that they contract with one for filler. He probably made about 10 bucks for that.

Panacaea -- I could be wrong, but I read Christine's post as sarcasm. ;-)

This whole piece makes me think strongly of an article on Cracked not too long ago. (I can't access Cracked from work, so I can't go find the link right now.) It was about a woman with a life-threatening lavender allergy. She'd love an alternative to Epipen, since she's already to the point where she has to decide whether or not a particular reaction is bad enough to justify it, since using her Epipen means she'll have trouble buying groceries for the month after paying for a new one. Also, because treating her allergy with lavender oil would probably kill her. She already has to deal with kids who think it's oh-so-hilarious to spray lavender perfume in her face, and bosses who react to that by firing her because they can't provide her a safe work environment.

And neti pots as an alternative? Good gracious. Those aren't even an alternative to antihistamines. They're for relieving congestion. They're an alternative to Sudafed. Nothing more.

Dude clearly hasn't the foggiest idea what anaphylaxis is.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

@MJD @Christine
To counter allergies, you do not build up the immune system, you build its tolerance (inaction) against the harmless stuff it should tolerate. In vaccines or anywhere else.

The last thing you ever want is an immune system in overdrive for no reason...

The epipen also comes with a practice injector which was quite useful for my children to understand how to administer an epipen.

I've no experience with an epipen, but -

Back in the day, I went thru Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Warfare School. Under the Chemical Warfare section, we covered nerve gas. We learned how they work, how to test to see if an area was contaminated so we could avoid exposure, the symptoms of exposure, and how to treat exposure.

The treatment is to inject atropine. They have these nifty spring loaded injectors, and to use them, you unwrap, remove the safety cap, and press it hard into the thigh.

The instructor then produced a bunch on injectors, and explained that they were practice injectors, filled with saline, and that you could tell, because they had (IIRC) blue tops, not green. He took an injector, armed it, pressed it against a piece of cardboard, and the needle popped thru and sprayed the class. He then took another injector, armed it, and dropped it business end first onto a small board, where the needle popped out, and stuck in the board.

He then passed out, one to each student, a practice injector. we were told to unwrap and arm the injectors, hold them in our dominate hand, and slam them down into our thighs.

He had no takers to this proposal, and told the class that we had to do it to pass the class. It took a while, but we all did as we were told.

That's when we discovered that there are two types of practice injectors - those with needles, and those without.

However you do NOT inhale the water, you just put your head on one side then let the water trickle in the top nostril and out the bottom.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neti_(Hatha_Yoga) in addition to the left to right and right to left rinsing, there is also -

It is also possible to sniff the water in so that it runs into the mouth, and to spit it out. In a more advanced reverse variant, the water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out of the nose.[2]

The footnotes go to -
http://www.yoga-age.com/asanas/neti.html

That’s when we discovered that there are two types of practice injectors – those with needles, and those without.

Thankfully, no needles on the practice injectors especially since my children enjoy doing surprise jabs on me.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

"Eucalyptus – This oil contains a strong scent that ensures a smooth flow of secretions that plague your respiratory tract. It also relieves headaches that come along with allergy attacks as it enhances the flow of blood in the brain. Always dilute it with a carrier oil first (like coconut oil) prior to use with a steam inhaler or neti pot."

I clearly have a different definition of "natural" than those promting herbs for anaphyllaxis. Having epinephrine coursing through my body at times of great stress or peril is "natural" to my way of thinking. Thus, if a stressful situation calls for more epinephrine, I give myself more epinephrine. I can not think of anytime that snorting Eucalyptus oil would be 'natural."

Johnny @ 50 - that was... AWESOME!!!

Takiar says (#49),

The last thing you ever want is an immune system in overdrive for no reason…

MJD says,

Well said, in support of that there's no reason children should be subjected to food-stuff proteins (e.g., egg proteins) inherent in some flu vaccines.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

"It is also possible to sniff the water in so that it runs into the mouth, and to spit it out. In a more advanced reverse variant, the water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out of the nose.[2] "

Don't you think there is a difference between 'sniffing' and 'inhaling'? After all here are a lot of politicians of a certain age who admit to smoking mariuana, but insist they never inhaled, while I doubt their veracity there IS a difference between having water in your mouth or nasal passages and having it in your lungs!

In a more advanced reverse variant, the water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out of the nose.

Don't forget Sutra Neti.

Jazzlet @45: Yeah, I noticed that too. Inhaling water is a great way to make your day much, much worse.

And I noticed that while the author said you should only use sterile water for your neti pot (no brain amoebas please), he failed to mention that the water should have some salts in it. And be warm. I mean, I guess you could pour cold plain water up your nose, but man, that would suck a lot.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Johnny @50: When last I took first aid the instructor had us practice stabbing the epipen into a partner, rather than ourselves. Apparently the training had changed because someone had such fantastic muscle memory for an epipen that she injected herself instead of the child who needed it (kid and teacher were ok).

The other problem with the price of epipens is that they expire pretty frequently. And if it's for a kid in school you may have to provide one that lives in the nurse's office, as well as one you keep at home or in the car.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Nasal irrigation isn't always woo. My ENT doctor has advised me to use this version of a neti pot several times a day (boiled or distilled water plus salt and sodium bicarbonate), and to occasionally 'inhale' the saline so that it flows out of my mouth, as this reaches some otherwise inaccessible crevices. I am supposed to continue this indefinitely.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Krebiozen @ 58: That's the one I've used too, for plain old congestion. Sometimes the congestion relief is *amazing* (if unspeakably disgusting). Other times it only helps a little.

But the idea of using it cold, or without some salts, makes me shudder. It's not a pleasant experience as is.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Whether or not Epi-pens are too expensive in the U.S., it's doubtful that all that many people are paying full price, given partial to complete insurance coverage and discount programs.

http://blog.foodallergy.org/2014/01/03/2014-patient-assistance-resource…

Dying because you relied on "natural" anaphylaxis remedies is even more expensive, given the unreal prices charged by the funeral industry.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

"And, yes, if you inject into a distal extremity (hands or feet) you can endanger the blood supply to your digits."

Done that - missed the toddler and hit my hand. It HURTS LIKE HELL!

By Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

For a lot of families, having to come up with $415 (after insurance, yearly because they expire) to prevent a reaction that MIGHT happen, could be a true hardship.

The same might be said for auto insurance.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

That’s when we discovered that there are two types of practice injectors – those with needles, and those without.

Military instructors have a lot of leeway to be evil (disclaimer: I was one).

Back on topic: "natural alternatives to an Epipen?" They have got to be sh**ting me.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Narad @ #47 nailed it: another spew-farm attempting to cash in on the popularity of so-called alternatives to medicine. Both the writer and the owners of the site he writes for have some serious Shatkarma in store.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

on the matter of autoinjector unfortunate incidents:

Notice in the photo that he is holding the EpiPen in his fist, with his thumb wrapped around. This method is promoted because, on occasion, someone will put their thumb on the end of an upside-down pen. This can result in a little fountain of epi if the needle misses the bone and makes it through the nail. The alternative is less attractive.

I'm actually allergic to lavendar. How is that supposed to help me. The natural cure to anaphylaxis will cause anapylaxis!

One of my partners uses nasal irrigation. She has a plastic device, and then just boils tap water (or uses what's left in the tea kettle) and adds ordinary table salt. But that won't put any money in the pockets of the woo-pushers.

A rival to this epipen nonsense as the worst idea ever: when I was in college, I went to a chiropractor on the advise of a friend. I asked the chiropractor what he could do for me that a conventional doctor couldn't. He gave some speech about how chiropractors are necessary to keep physicians honest by forcing them to consider ideas that they otherwise wouldn't. A little specious, but not the dumbest thing I had ever heard. The next thing was the dumbest thing I had ever heard: he said that if he saw someone having a heart attack, he wouldn't give CPR, but would try to give them an adjustment. He was serious. I walked out straight away without saying a word. I researched chiropractors and found that kind of dangerous ignorance to be the norm. Now, I just sleep on a good bed and stretch alot.

By lara leishman (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

I had my first anaphylactic reaction this past summer - to a lip gloss, of all things. Thank god I lived a few blocks away from the ER - within 20 minutes my throat was closing up and my entire face was swollen. It took 7 hours of treatment in the ER to get it resolved. My epi-pen goes everywhere with me.

@Liz #71: Did you determine or at least obtain some idea of the ingredient responsible?

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

That article appears to have been taken down as I now get an 'error 404' message. Good work! It was just mind-bogglingly irresponsible and ignorant. One "natural" alternative to adminstering epinephrine in anaphylaxis could of course be untimely death ... very likely due to a "natural" allergen like a nut or an insect sting. Mother Nature sure can be mean.

There are actual scientific trials for allergies and coeliac disease involving training the immune response to ignore the allergen. Not that I give any credit to "natural" nitwits for this. It's science and the trials may not pan out or might only provide partial protection.

The one that interests me is from a company called ImmusanT which is producing a "vaccine" against coeliac disease by training the immune response to ignore gluten instead of attacking it. That'd be something if the trial comes to fruition.

I've had "natural" remedies to anaphylaxis. I much prefer my epipen.

(cryptic (no skin symptoms, no throat swelling), idiopathic anaphylaxis that involved nausea and passing out, syncope or pre-syncope for 10-15 minutes, then it would pass. took a year to diagnose as a histamine reaction when i finally had trouble breathing during one and almost died. six months later it was further diagnosed as not idiopathic, but alpha-gal allergy, which has since receded. but i still keep my epi-pen handy.)

By Cy in NYC (not verified) on 23 Dec 2015 #permalink

ok, they pulled the article. now, where's the contact info for the editor and his management? someone with editorial decision making needs to be raked over the coals on this one.

I didn't have time to read the Gazette Review article yesterday, but I've now just finished it.

It gave me a good feeling to see that all the comments on the Gazette Review site (well, the cached version) were universally negative. Maybe humanity can be saved.

I have a life threatening allergy, and carry an epipen all the time. I found out about my allergy the hard way. The f*ckwits promoting "natural alternatives" to epipens are putting people's lives at risk, simple as that. Being stuck with an epipen is really not pleasant - but far preferable to the alternative (having done both I feel I can speak with a bit of authority).

At least I'm lucky - I live in a country that actually accepts that access to healthcare is a right, and publically funds it, so my epipen doesn't cost very much (which is good, because mine seems to always need replacing as it's gone out of date). But for those who have no alternative to pay though the nose because they're under the US health care system, I'd still say that the cost of replacing it is still way better than slowly suffocating to death because your immune system has gone haywire.

By Cardinal Fang (not verified) on 23 Dec 2015 #permalink

I get frequent migraines, and have found that the pill and nasal inhalant versions of Imytrex don't work that well for me but he injectable (epipen like) Imytrex does the job usually in 10 minutes. I haven't found jabbing myself in the thigh to be that big a deal. But OMG - anaphylactic reaction to, say, a bee string - right, I'll whip out those herbals right way, oh, whoops, I'm dead. With regard to the reference of the "gluten" of the week...my office received a Xmas gift basked with "gluten free" sweet potato chips. Um.....last time I looked, I wasn't aware of any wheat in sweet potatoes.

@Chris Preston #74

Eh, at least with regards to Fabreze he's mostly just listing fruits and plaint oils that smell nice. Though the whole section about plants cleaning the air in your home sounds like a bunch of hooey - if you actually have smellable amounts of benzene or formaldehyde in your house, you need to evacuate and call a hazmat team.

Bob: "Though the whole section about plants cleaning the air in your home sounds like a bunch of hooey..."

Perhaps one should actually try cleaning out their home. Plain white vinegar is good for cleaning out the fridge, actually clean the litter box more than once a week, and make sure you don't create places that stay moist (hang up those bath towels, and fix those leaks!).

Get a dedicated sink plunger, use that to help clear the sink drains (a small piece of plastic tubing will help to drain plug from completely closing). Follow up by putting baking soda down the drain, then pour in some vinegar and watch it foam. In a few minutes flush it down with hot water. Soap, skin flakes and shaved hair provide stuff in the drain for mold/mildew to grow. That is what the black stuff that came up with the plunger, which was used to loosen it so the soda/vinegar would work better.

"the nasal shield against foreign substances"

Hold on - is my nose supposed to have some kind of... hymen? If so, it's long gone...

By Box Turtle (not verified) on 23 Dec 2015 #permalink

I still can't believe this wasn't written by Sayer Ji

By James Peters (not verified) on 23 Dec 2015 #permalink

It's funny, I had always understood that allergies were the immune systems gone a bit wild.....so not sure boosting the immune system is A Good Thing.

And yes, pumping adrenaline would cause arrythmia, tachycardia and other things.....but really to say that the treatment for a life-threatening time-critical health crisis might have side effects leading to death is pretty stupid.

Even I, who hates my albuterol for asthma because it does the same things, recognize that my personal feelings about a medication supersede my need to breathe.....

A final note, herbal/homeopathis/lifestyle choices are sometimes great for managing chronic issues. Not so much for the code blues.

A final note, herbal/homeopathis/lifestyle choices are sometimes great managing chronic issues. Not so much for the code blues.

Lifestyle? Sure. Herbal? Within limits, I will buy that. Homeopathic? I'll need some evidence.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2015 #permalink

I am all for utilizing some natural rememdies BUT there are times and situations that are an absolute MUST for a medication- food allergies & anaphylaxis are not anything to chance, ever.

Mephistopheles, don't forget hypoglycemia. Homeopathy is great for that, though for nothing else.

Merry Christmas to every minion who celebrates it, and happy Any And All Other Holidays to the rest.

There actually is a degree of science behind the claim that house plants purify indoor air. From my brief online searching, it seems that a NASA study from 1989 is most often cited (when a reference is given at all):

http://maison-orion.com/media/1837156-NASA-Indoor-Plants.pdf

From this study, it appears your best results would be with potted Gerbera and mums (which unfortunately don't last all that long indoors), but stalwarts like peace lily (Spathiphyllum) and some Draceanas also decrease levels of contaminants like benzene and formaldehyde which off-gas from interior furnishings (combining plants with an activated charcoal filtration system provided optimal results).

I have a dozen or more plants in my office, which are there for enjoyment as well as whatever they can do to decrease ambient formaldehyde levels (the pathology specimen processing area begins about 20 feet from my office door).

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 25 Dec 2015 #permalink

Correction: Dracaenas.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 25 Dec 2015 #permalink

Mephistopheles, don’t forget hypoglycemia. Homeopathy is great for that, though for nothing else.

Pickwick - also dehydration or sobriety, depending on the solvent. How silly of me to doubt the myriad uses of homeopathy.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 25 Dec 2015 #permalink

I have to admit that I did by a bottle of homeopathic cough syrup recently, by accident. I had some sort of nasty chest cold that I couldn't shake, and had been in the psych ward for a week to boot (had just gotten out) so I think it's understandable. I got it while I was picking up a few groceries, didn't pay a lot of attention to the label.

Still bogus, but the "syrup" part of the cough syrup helped at least a little, and at least it was only like four bucks.

Speaking of the psych ward, that lithium stuff kind of helped for a while, but it honestly was making my blood pressure go a little whacky, or it could have just been the stress, whatever, but man, I think that particular drug is a little too heavy, at least for me, anyway. More for batteries than horses or human beings, I think, but you know, whatever, we'll see.

see the doc JP, maybe just a simple adj in dosing. Should also be getting a periodic CMP & thyroid panel.

Don't worry, I have an appointment with the doctor on Sunday, with a doctor who is crazy enough to work on Sundays.

@ JP:

That's a tricky med but it does help some people.

Perhaps you'll feel better as Saturnalia dissipates.
I am never exactly thrilled with the holiday season so I try to go out to eat, talk to friends / relations, not drink too much and see good, complicated movies to distract myself.

e.g. 'The Big Short' - it's a laugh riot- who knew that global financial Ragnarok could be so entertaining**.

Maybe one on head injuries or transgender angst next.
I already saw Spotlight.
Then, there's Star Wars.

** it wasn't when it happened.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Dec 2015 #permalink

Neti pots, filled with tap water in the United States, have caused deaths from the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri (more commonly encountered swimming in ponds). There were two cases of this in the U.S. in 2011. 99% of people who contract an infection from the amoeba die of brain swelling within 5 days. If you drink it it is killed by your digestive tract but no such luck it gets int your nasal passages. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tap-water-in-neti-pots-behind-two-brain-eat…

By Dan Young (not verified) on 26 Dec 2015 #permalink

good times. think I'll get some mad cow for dinner

oops, I meant free range naturopathic organic vegan mad cow

So, what, 1 death every 150 days from brain eating amoebas, vs 87 per day from auto accidents, using 2011 auto fatality data (most years are higher)? 2 deaths out of 2,515,458 total US deaths that year? Literally more than a million to one shot that you will die of something else?

Sure, it's scary to think of a bug eating my brain, but I'm more likely to die going to the grocery store later today.

@ dz #32

It has taken me sometime to get through Google U with the holiday and my limited intelligence but it reads more complex than "“IgE protects against allergies".

Parasites–allergy paradox: Disease mediators or therapeutic modulators

Either way the choice of the phrase to "build up the immune system" was very unclear, and I think, misleading. But when you can say anything that sounds scientific and get away with it, why not use it to sell something.

Thanks for sending me on the search. I found a very interesting article about allergies and a scientist named Ruslan Medzhitov. He may (or may not) be a maverick but I found his story interesting.

Why do we have allergies?

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 27 Dec 2015 #permalink

You need to update your picture of an epi-pen. They were redesigned a few years ago.

You know, maybe the issue is we are looking at homeopathy and natural remedies the wrong way. Maybe its a form of natural selection. Hehe... Natural! People will take this kind of crap, think they will be fine, and poof, die off. While the rest continue using advanced and advancing medical treatments to get better.

By Steven Melendez (not verified) on 04 Jan 2016 #permalink

Maybe its a form of natural selection.

Sadly, three things work against this:
1. These practices and attitudes are not genetically linked, so far as we know. Removing those who practice from the gene pool will not by itself remove the practice.
2. It is perfectly possible to grow up and spawn in the absence of any medical treatment. Those who do so successfully can become carriers of the attitude/practice. Having become parents they are obviously fully qualified to speak authoritatively on all medical matters.
3. Even if it could work, it would take many generations and cost millions of lives.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 04 Jan 2016 #permalink

Mr. Melendez, eugenics is no longer a popular concept. Especially when the victims are children who cannot choose.