My Asthma Overdiagnosis Story

With great interest I read this CBC article about the fact many Canadians diagnosed with asthma don't in fact have it. This was my experience with my firstborn.

Weeks before his second birthday, my oldest ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. I spent five nights sleeping on that cot while we watched old VHS tapes of Sponge Bob Squarepants. During this stay, an asthma specialist at St. Joseph's Health Center diagnosed my son with asthma and prescribed two inhalers. One of these inhalers was to be taken by my son every morning, so we started him getting used to this new ritual.

Coincidentally, and sadly, his pediatrician at this time died suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer. We switched him to a new pediatrician and I'll never forget the convo I had with him, only a few months after James's asthma diagnosis.

Doc: He only had pneumonia the once?
Me: Yes
Doc: And there's no other difficulty breathing?
Me: Correct
Doc: And the doctor diagnosed him with asthma and prescribed this puffer to be taken daily?
me: Yes
Doc: He doesn't have asthma (proceeds to throw inhaler in garbage). He doesn't need this treatment.

This was about 12 years ago, and there hasn't been a symptom of asthma since. The doc who made the original diagnosis was well regarded in his field but time has proven him wrong. I'm not at all surprised to read about studies like this Dutch one. More than 600 children diagnosed as having asthma were examined and it was found nearly 54 per cent likely did not have it.

I am not a doctor, but if your child has been diagnosed with asthma, you may want to get a second opinion. And then, if it's all tied up, a third opinion. Inhalers have negative side-effects. You don't want your kid taking one every day if they don't have to.


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Newposter

Hi,
Long time follower and first time interacting. After reading this post I had speak up. This exact same happened to my ex fiancee. For years she had a puffer and thought she suffered from asthma. 3 years ago her auto immune system sort of crashed and made her pretty sick. After months of seeing different doctors and specialist (including private health care) the source of her problems was discovered. She did not have asthma - the specialist at Toronto Women's Hospital told her she had the lungs of an athlete - and the prolonged used of the inhaler is what gradually threw her auto immune system out of whack. After the discovery it's taken her over a year to recover. She's an adult and it was tough going through it so I can't imagine how much tougher it is for a child to go through it.

April 25, 2016 @ 11:11 AM

also

Gee what else isn't true? What else is mistakenly said, described, prescribed. With needles. With pills. With crap scooped out of an Agent Orange dump site and labelled good for you. How much crap is shoved into our systems by the profit machine.

April 25, 2016 @ 2:50 PM

Irv

@TorontoMike

And you wonder why people are anti-vax & anti flu shot? They're not against the medicine, they don't trust the institutions & corporations feeding them the science. And I can understand that even if I disagree with it.

April 25, 2016 @ 4:19 PM

newposter

The problem lies in that most doctors are trained to treat the symptom not the find out the cause. If your knee hurts,..here's pain meds and physio to strengthen the knee. They don't look to see what's causing the pain (speaking from experience). Also, most of the different ailments have very similar symptoms so doctors will work their way down the list until the find the correct diagnosis. If you happen to have an ailment that falls within the 5% of cases the doctors don't understand then you are screwed because you get lumped in for the other 95% so you get diagnosed incorrectly. Most doctors are taught to believe that for every ill there's a pill and some will completely disrespect the alternative medicine field....and let's not get into the ego that some of these doctors have. Like the joke says.."What's the difference between God and a doctor? .......God doesn't believe he's a doctor.

I don't hate the medical field, I've just learned that you can't blindly trust what you are told. Ultimately you know your own body better than anyone else and if something doesn't feel right, keep searching until you get the answer that you are satisfied with.

April 25, 2016 @ 4:28 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Just to share a little more....

When a doctor who specializes in asthma tells you your son has asthma, you believe him. We sure did. After all, that's his speciality and he's affiliated with the peds clinic at St. Joe's.

Over the past 12 years, I've really learned to trust the pediatrician who now counts all four of my children among his patients. He's affiliated with Sick Kids and very reasonable and measured and hesitant to medicate until it's absolutely necessary. He's told me to pay out of pocket for my son to be vaccinated against HPV, as he did for the chicken pox vax before the government started paying for that. I trust him completely.

But I don't know how long my son would have been on the inhaler if we didn't start seeing him a dozen years ago. He could still be on it.

April 25, 2016 @ 4:35 PM

'natural' medicine

Food is a great healer too. Who Really Feeds the World/The failures of agribusiness and the promise of agroecology by Vandana Shiva will become available June 28, 2016.

@Irv. Actually I think a lot of people are concerned about what's in the medicine itself.

April 25, 2016 @ 5:35 PM

Dr No

Must say I am pleasantly surprised to see this article from you TM, considering all the "I trust science implicitly" literature I've read from you.

If I may, I'd like to share my own story. I was diagnosed with Asthma as a 6 yr old. Oddly, it only occurred in the presence of long pet hair and dander, in the spring AND when I ran or exerted myself. An allergist tested me and said I was allergic only to strawberries.

I was given a blue inhaler (Ventolin), and a brown one (corticosteroid). They helped when I had shortness of breath for maybe 3-4 hours at a time then wore off.

As I grew up, the shortness of breath persisted only when I did long periods of exercise. I continued with the puffers. By the time I was 24, I had heart palpitations which was no surprise as Ventolin is a steroid.

I went to 2 Specialists who did batteries of tests. The result? "I may or may not have asthma". I was fed up. No one was helping so I went to a Homeopathic clinic (I know this is a dirty word for you TM).

They spent 2 hours on my initial consultation asking about my total health history and did a physical. They came to a conclusion; I needed to lose 20 lbs and was dehydrated. I needed to drink more water regularly and drink at least 2 liters before exercise or running. They also gave me a remedy for my palpitations.

That was 7 years ago. I haven't had to use the puffers since and I now run and swim regularly without any issue. I also supplement my family doctor with homeopathy, shiatsu and chiropractic. Many are quick to dismiss alternative medicine, but without it, my quality of life would not be what it is now.

April 25, 2016 @ 5:54 PM

twins from bolton

1 son Chris at 2 years old diagnosed with asthma from our pediatrician with sneezing & coughing.
He was put on Ventolin & corticosteroid also. Went back after 2 more years as he was having same problems. "Childhood asthma" as doctor said & he be over it when he ages to 9 or 10. Continued on the meds & then had major trouble breathing when he was 5 or 6 & went to same dr. who was on vacation & another dr. saw him & said "get him off these puffers right away as his lungs are not reproducing as they should & he has no symptoms of asthma, who prescribed this to you. He was born prematurely & is behind in his & brothers development". The person your are covering for made the prognosis.

Chris still gets colds frequently but no breathing problems at all after taking him off puffers 18 years ago. Both sons have allergies which are common in our household, but nothing major.

Get a flu shot - NO WAY. Worst winters my family have had with colds & sickness was when we did get flu shot as we had to with wife's Chrones disease. Another scam IMO. Nobody with a flu vaccine in 5 years & no problems, INCLUDING my wife.

Wait 2-3 weeks & see if he gets better.

April 25, 2016 @ 7:55 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

We're not really comparing the misdiagnosis of asthma with getting a flu shot, are we?

Oh brother....

One is an over-eagerness to diagnose a disease while the other is a tried and true way to prevent oneself from getting the flu. If you care about your kids, you'll make sure they get their flu shot every single year.

April 25, 2016 @ 8:00 PM

twins from bolton

All to make $

April 25, 2016 @ 8:55 PM

no way

Mike you could not pay me ANY amount of money to put that flu shot stuff in my system.

April 25, 2016 @ 9:06 PM

Dr No

Toronto Mike, I'm interested as to why (if there is any reason), you have not commented on my post.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

As for vaccinations, it is not black and white. Clearly, Polio, TB and other vaccines have helped humanity greatly. However, the evidence for Flu vaccines are not clear and if anything, would lead one to objectively consider not getting Flu shots every year.

April 25, 2016 @ 9:16 PM

Anonymous

Don't forget the role of social hygiene i.e. plumbing i.e. clean water in attacking root causes of many diseases.

April 25, 2016 @ 9:31 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@no way

I can't make you get a flu shot.

April 25, 2016 @ 9:44 PM

Ben V

Yes incorrectly diagnosed asthma is most certainly in the same vein as taking a flu shot.

It's laughable to hear I was sick way more after getting the flu shot. As if getting the flu shot suddenly makes your body taken on colds easier. Two very different viruses. Causation does not equal correlation, that's a statement people should take to heart.

I get the flu shot every year and some years I don't even get a cold and other years I'll get something, but that something isn't the flu. Usually I get ill around Christmas time when I'm run down from work and treating my body like an amusement park with bad food, alcoholic beverages and less than necessary sleep. With that said when I do get sick I certainly don't equate it to the flu shot.

I digress. My sister was misdiagnosed several times before doctors figured out she had a rare auto-immune disease. she was prescribed several different treatments and medications before they figured it out. At no point in time did the family suddenly have a mistrust of science and doctors. Nor did we link it to the flu shot and we shouldn't trust big pharma. Call me gullible or naive, but I continue to use my tinfoil for cooking purposes and not making hats....

April 26, 2016 @ 9:22 AM

Irv

@Natural Medicine

Well "wondering what is in the shot" all falls back on trusting our institutions. We do not. I'm pro vaccine. I am pro public health. I shake my head that a parent won't immunize their kid against measles but goes ape shit if someone smokes in public.

But, I understand their mistrust of the system. We've been let down so often by corporations and institutions we don't trust them. We're now at a point where a lot of people are saying "I'll take my chances". And that's not good because in modern times we don't have a real reference to what a small pox outbreak looks like. But in the end the root cause of the issue is our lost trust.

April 26, 2016 @ 9:43 AM

fourteen

Ben V, the correct use of the adage is:

"Correlation does not imply causation".

April 26, 2016 @ 11:36 AM

Dr No

@ Ben V,

There is a difference between having total mistrust of "the system" and having a healthy, scepticism of things. It is also important to realize that healthcare and science are not concrete (though many would have you believe that), and that only 50 years ago 4 out 5 Doctor's recommended Camel cigarettes.

It was also as recently as 50 years ago that people with any major mental health issues were subjected to lobotomies/leucotomies and electro-shock therapy. In those days, that was standard, but because people became more educated and stood up to the healthcare establishment, that eventually became unacceptable.

I personally believe in having a healthy scepticism of everything, and exploring all your health options. Most of the help I have received for my health has not come from traditional medicine and big pharma. I found that they just misdiagnosed or "masked" my symptoms temporarily. I had to become my own "doctor" in changing my habits and also employed other alternative medicine to get tangible results. I still believe in emergency medicine and the screening resources of traditional medicine, but in terms of treatments, I think diversification is important.

The most important consideration, in my eyes, is that everyone is different, so one pill will never be effective long-term. This is why I also ignore case trials, because they treat everyone based on a symptom rather than the cause that created it. If you just treat the symptom without looking at the underlying cause, it is not always effective.

In any case, I enjoyed that Mike posted this and the discussion it has brought about.

April 26, 2016 @ 11:53 AM

Ben V

@ fourteen: Thanks, but I knew the correct adage. In the twins case they stated that the had the flu shot and the whole family was sick all winter and when they didn't everyone was fine. Thus indicating that that causation = correlation, hence my statement

I'll remember my adage's for you moving forward.

April 26, 2016 @ 1:33 PM

Anecdote about a church minister

He had been influential in my life when I was younger. They said he was healthy. He got a flu shot. He went downhill quickly. And perished. That's the only cause they could think of.

April 26, 2016 @ 1:58 PM

fourteen

Ben V, the adage caught my eye as I am reminded of it very often when people jump to conclusions with out taking time to research their opinion(s). Soooo much idiocy could be avoided with a little effort to study up on a topic before locking down a position on an issue. No diss' intended, just struck a nerve

April 26, 2016 @ 9:08 PM

Zeke

"It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine." --Marcia Angell, MD, New York Review of Books, 2009

May 3, 2016 @ 12:43 PM

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