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Boiler bonus explains asthma and heating link

Copperfield suspects the parents of children who agreed to take part in research into the effect of central heating on childhood asthma may have exaggeraged their child's symptoms in exchange for a new boiler.

Copperfield suspects the parents of children who agreed to take part in research into the effect of central heating on childhood asthma may have exaggeraged their child's symptoms in exchange for a new boiler.



There was a fabulous episode of "Porridge" that had a subplot involving Fletcher making sure that a conversation with his daughter was overheard by the screws. The loot, he assured her in a stage whisper, was safely buried in the back garden.

At the end of the show she returned to let him know that half a dozen policemen had spent a backbreaking day digging up the entire garden, but had found nothing.

This didn't surprise Fletch at all, as the whole thing had been a ruse to get the vegetable plot turned over in time for planting in spring.

Far be it from me to suggest that medics would fall for a similar con, but this week's BMJ reports a study where four hundred families had brand new central heating systems installed in their homes. The plan was to study the effect of improved heating on their children's asthma.

Picture the scene in downtown Porirua as father peruses the classified ads... "Do you need a new central heating boiler for the winter?" "Does your child have asthma?" Well, not until just now he didn't...

Why do I arrive at this uncharitable conclusion? Mainly because I'm cynical and suspicious by nature but also because it's the only one that fits the results.

The children's symptoms – as reported by their parents, naturally – improved markedly but all the objective measurements of their lung function (FEV1, PEFR) remained unchanged.

Which either means that there are some things about medicine that Man is not supposed to understand or, embarrassingly, the kids never had asthma at all.

Copperfield blog

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