Alternative therapies use is increasing. Social media (SoMe) have become a popular source of health information. We have evaluated the impact of using SoMe for searching evidence-based and alternative allergy-related therapies by food allergic patients.
A cross-sectional study was led in the Pediatric Allergy Unit of our third-level hospital in Madrid, Spain, September-November 2016. Two hundred consecutive food-allergic patients were surveyed about their SoMe habits and opinion (1 to 5, or unknown) on allergy-related evidence-based (oral immunotherapy, epinephrine, allergen immunotherapy, inhaled corticosteroids) and alternative therapies (homeopathy, reiki, acupuncture, osteopathy, naturopathy, Bach flower remedies). For patients under 13 years, the questionnaire was filled by parents/guardians.
Survey had 193 respondents. Median age 8 years (IQR: 7). Sex: 60% girls. Food allergy: 47% nuts, 37% egg, 30% milk. Asthma history: 49.4%. SoMe were used by 72%, of which 25% did for food allergy.
Oral immunotherapy and epinephrine (median 5) were rated the highest by SoMe users while reiki and Bach flower (median 1) were ranked the lowest. Median score for evidence-based (4, IQR 1.75) was higher than alternative therapies (2, IQR 2; p<0.0001). More respondents knew evidence-based (93.5%) than alternative therapies (58.7%; p<0.0001). No significant differences were found between patients who used SoMe for food allergy and those who used SoMe for non-allergy-related purposes, regarding therapies’ rating or knowledge.
Information on evidence-based therapies is preferred by food allergic patients and their families over alternative remedies. Using SoMe as a source of food allergy information does not seem to influence patients’ opinion on therapies.