Saturday, October 10, 2015

Do Some People Have a "WiFi Allergy"?

Is it possible for people to have an allergy, or at least an adverse reaction of some kind, to WiFi transmissions? Some people think so. They claim that their symptoms of headaches, itchy skin, a rash, heart palpitations and nausea are caused by what they call an "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" (abbreviated EHS; doesn't every disease have a three-letter designation these days?), which can be triggered by wireless Internet service transmissions. One couple has even sued their son's school, claiming that EHS is a disability and that the school must change their WiFi system to accommodate him.

It turns out that many cases of EHS are self-diagnosed. The condition is not a recognized medical diagnosis by any authoritative medical body. Although no one denies that some people experience symptoms, it appears that the symptoms result more from what is called a "nocebo effect" - the tendency for someone to feel unwell when they think they have been exposed to something hazardous. In a review published in 2010 of 46 published blind or double-blind studies, involving over 1,000 people who self-diagnosed themselves has having EHS, it was found that reactions similar to EHS were elicited when the persons thought they were being exposed but were not. In other words, the symptoms in these patients are most likely due to psychological factors.

Nevertheless, some people continue to push for EHS to be declared a disability, entitling them to the accommodation that such a declaration would allow. Let's hope they don't succeed.

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