Vitamin C: The Old Man's Friend.

Vitamin C:  The Old Man's Friend.

Osler described pneumonia as the Captain of the Men of Death. Back in days before antibiotics, vaccines, and a good understanding of the epidemiology, pneumonia was a routine killer. It could kill so quickly and painlessly Osler also called it the old man's friend, since it was a better death than many of the alternatives of the day. With friends like that...

Like many infections that used to plague mankind but have greatly diminished in the industrialized nations, people lack have lost their appreciation for the morbidity and mortality that infections can inflict. Pneumonia due to all kinds of germs still occur and much of the time we take can cure them. Not always. I still see the occasional pneumonia that kills and it is the cause of death in about 55,000 Americans a year with 1.2 million hospitalizations. Still a considerable problem and nothing compared the numbers killed and sickened worldwide.

A serious disease that can be difficult to treat.

So I was curious about the headline "Pneumonia cured in 3 hours using natural medicine"

 

The page has at the top a classic chest x-ray of a lobar, bacterial, pneumonia.

Then there is a video testimonial about the experience of a person with a viral pneumonia. How this was diagnosed is not mentioned. It sure would be nice to see the chest x-ray for or a copy of the medical record.

To treat his viral pneumonia he took massive amounts of vitamin C and within three hours his cough and fevers were gone.

Even assuming he indeed had pneumonia, we do not know how long he had been ill. That is important as here is a secret about most URI's and viral pneumonias: they get better.  And often there is a crescendo of symptoms, in the old days referred to as the crisis, followed by resolution of the symptoms.  The crisis marks the onset of the antibody response and cure of the disease.

No physiologic response to infection improves in just three hours, except for fevers which by their nature are hectic, i.e. come and go. The can be no cause and effect from vitamin C under these circumstances as the effect was too rapid. They call it a miracle, and that is what such a response would be, since it violates the laws of nature as all real miracles must.

Assuming that the story is accurate, and after years of listening to patient stories I have learned that many a dramatic story has grown in the telling, what is being described is the natural history of disease.  He got better and gave credit to the vitamin C, the old true-true and unrelated.

What really concerns me about the report is the lack of clarity about pneumonias and its causes and treatment. If you know little about infectious diseases you could conclude from the site that vitamin C is the cure for all pneumonias, bacterial and viral. Taking vitamin C for a viral process is at least harmless although not helpful. But self treating a bacterial pneumonia with vitamin C alone would be a dangerous thing to do as in the pre-antibiotic era it killed 30-40%.

Perhaps as a result vitamin C will become the modern old man's friend. Again, with friends like that...

Points of Interest 12/02/2014
Points of Interest 12/01/2014

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