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February 26 - March 1, 2015 

Side Effects

The New Physician January-February 2014 Volume 63, Number 1

A BUZZFEED QUIZ FOR SEIZURES?

We’ve come a long way since our technology—especially our primitive video games—was inducing our seizures. Now our portable digital toys will help protect us from them. Think you’re witnessing an epileptic seizure? You guessed it: There’s (going to be) an app for that. Presenting at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, neurologists used survey data to create a series of questions that a layperson can use to determine the nature of a seizure. In particular, researchers thought the app could be useful in low-resource settings where doctors may not be available. Testing in Nepal and India showed that people using the app made the same determination as a doctor in 96 percent of cases. No word yet on how the app will be gamified to compete with Candy Crush.

I CAN SMELL THE STREP ON YOU

Detecting illness by smell isn’t a skill exclusive to creepy cats any more. Though anecdotally there are a few diseases with a characteristic smell even people notice, Swedish scientists publishing in Psychological Science found that we seem to be able to detect immune response in the sweat of other humans very early in the disease process. Forty participants were asked to smell sweat samples from both healthy individuals and individuals injected with an immune response-inducing toxin. The participants found the sweat from those who had been given the toxin more unpleasant, and also rated it as smelling “unhealthier.” Though the exact chemical signaling mechanism is not known, the researchers are probably already patenting an antiperspirant designed to mask your embarrassing flu-stink.

LIKE WATER FOR COFFEE

Or coffee for water. According to a study just published in PLOS ONE, the popular idea that coffee leads to dehydration is probably based on studies of pure caffeine, rather than coffee itself. When researchers used male test subjects to compare the exclusive consumption of moderate amounts of coffee to equal amounts of water consumption, they found no significant difference in the subjects’ hydration levels. Which is great news, since I haven’t drunk anything but coffee for the past four days.