Tag: Amanda Ellison

Review – Splitting: The Inside Story on Headaches

Posted January 10, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 7 Comments

Cover of Headaches by Amanda EllisonSplitting: The Inside Story on Headaches, Amanda Ellison

This is very much a book for a layperson, and I sometimes worry about the author being overly glib or just not thinking things through. At one point, for example, it states that antibiotics are “not very effective” against viruses. The substances commonly thought of as antibiotics — penicillin, streptomycin, etc — are of course actually antibacterials, and are not at all effective against viruses, and it’s irresponsible to suggest that they are at all effective in that situation, given that they’re completely pointless.

If you’re going to refer to antivirals as “antibiotics” (which some people might do, arguing that “anti-biotic” means “anti-life” — assuming you believe that viruses are alive), then it’s irresponsible in the other direction to suggest that they’re not very effective. It might lead to someone not taking antivirals when they should. I know this sounds like an extremely minor point in a book unrelated to infectious disease, but it’s really important, and a good scientist should not cut this kind of corner, even (or perhaps especially) when communicating to laypeople.

When it comes to discussing neurotransmitters and so on, the author is fairly precise… so far as I can tell, being more interested in infectious disease than human biology for the sake of human biology. Given her carelessness about other things, though, it does leave me with doubts.

I did appreciate the chapter on tension headaches, which I’m prone to. There’s even an interesting point about the fact that stomach ulcers generating histamine, which — given a stomach ulcer is one of the potential causes of some of my health issues, and given my high levels of stress — is worth exploring. But, by and large, I’m not impressed with this book. Writing for laypeople should not mean being cavalier about facts.

Rating: 2/5

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