Friday, July 19, 2013

Why I Signed My Toddler Up to Be a Guinea Pig

Wednesday this week, I took my little boy Children's Hospital, where he was put through allergy skin prick tests, measurement of blood oxygen, getting his blood pressure taken, giving a urine sample & measuring his height, weight, head, belly, hip & arm circumference, plus skin fold caliper tests. He was afraid of the strange machines at first, but eventually put up with all the tests & samples that were needed.

Why put Sprout through all that? Well, I'm not a hypochondriac & so far he shows no signs of allergies (other than sensitivity to chemical sunscreens & disposable diapers). We did it as part of our participation in the CHILD Study, which we've been doing since before Sprout was born & will continue until he's five years old.

Maybe you're wondering why I signed us up to get poked & prodded (Papa, Sprout & I have all given samples at various times, though it's mainly focussed on the child). Though I joke about all the tests, it's really not onerous. The nurses & researchers we've met are all lovely, very flexible & willing to make our participation as easy as possible. Also--though it's not really why we chose to join the study, as we didn't know about it when we started--they send Sprout a birthday card with a small gift every year & we are also given $100 grocery cards each year when we go to our clinic visit.

Here's my main motivator: think how much we benefit from all the research that's been conducted in the past. Life-saving medications like antibiotics or epinephrine, HIV drugs that have made what was a death sentence into a chronic condition: all needed volunteers to participate in research. However, it's not just about developing drugs; think of all the research that has led to public health policy changes like more effective vaccination schedules, or the banning of toxic chemicals like BPA from baby products. This is the main reason that I choose to participate in research like this: to help other people. Volunteering for studies--particularly those on maternal & infant health--gives me a chance to "pay it forward".

The goal of the CHILD study is to help provide a better understanding of the causes of allergy & asthma, including genetic & environmental triggers, as well as the ways that they interact. Sprout's not quite old enough to understand that, or why we did all this stuff to him today (& at previous visits). We explained that it would help other kids who have allergies, like one of his friends, who has been in Emergency at Children's Hospital many times. I think that he will start to get it by the time he's five & our participation is complete. I'm hoping he'll be proud to have been a part of it.

The CHILD study is no longer seeking participants, but if you'd like more information about it, please see their website:

Next time you see a poster on a bulletin board calling for research subjects, or maybe someone approaches you when you're waiting for your ultrasound (like they did for the CHILD study), please consider participating if you can. 

Have any of you been a "guinea pig" in the past? What motivated you to do it? 

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  1. I didn't even know about this until you recently mentioned it. Unfortunately, it's too late for Kepler. :-(

    1. There will be other studies you could participate in. :) My midwives' office always has lots of ads for them--maybe check there?

  2. Well written. I also signed up my toddler for the Child Study - he is 2 and doesn't really get it either but as a mom with allergies and asthma I hope that this study will help future kids/parents!


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