Research Roundup: Key Findings on Kids’ Asthma and Allergies
Early Findings on Asthma and Allergies
As rates of asthma and food allergies continue to rise, researchers are seeking to better understand, diagnose and treat the sometimes life-threatening conditions. Earlier this week, doctors, researchers and academics in the field gathered at the annual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) conference in San Francisco to present some of the latest research. Here are some of the most interesting data they shared.
“We used to say 85% or 90% would outgrow [milk allergies] by the time they are 3 or 4 years old,” Dr. Scott Sicherer, a pediatrics professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who led the new research, told HealthDay.
But studies over the last few years have suggested that many cases of allergy persist into later childhood, possibly even into the child’s second decade. About 2.5% of children younger than 3 are allergic to milk, according to data from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, and the allergy typically appears during the child’s first year.
Even if it takes kids longer, though, more than 85% will eventually outgrow the allergy. Sicherer’s study, whose preliminary results were presented at the AAAAI conference, suggests that kids who have milder allergic skin reactions to milk and lower blood levels of IgE antibodies (which trigger reactions to milk proteins) may outgrow their allergies faster.
“I think it’s important not to provide overly optimistic numbers to parents that their child is going to outgrow their milk allergy absolutely by grade school,” Dr. Jeffrey M. Factor, an allergist and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine,told HealthDay.
Kids With Severe Eczema May Have Lasting Milk, Egg Allergies
In a study of 500 children aged 3 to 15 months with milk or egg allergies, kids with more severe cases of the skin condition eczema were less likely to have outgrown their food allergy by the end of the two-year follow-up.
By the end of the study, 46% of children with mild or no eczema at enrollment outgrew their milk allergies, compared with 25% of those with moderate to severe cases of the skin condition.
The study also found that 39% of children with mild eczema outgrew their egg allergies after two years, compared with 21% of those with moderate to severe eczema.
The results are preliminary, but they may help parents better gauge how their child’s condition may progress. “These findings will help clinicians caring for infants with eczema and milk or egg allergy, and provide more accurate advice to parents about the likely course of their child’s milk or egg allergy,” study author Dr. Robert A. Wood, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an AAAAI news release.
Mom’s Birth Control Pill Doesn’t Increase Kids’ Asthma Risk
Although some previous data had suggested that a woman’s use of hormonal birth control pills before pregnancy could increase the risk of asthma in her children, a large new study of Norwegian mothers and children found that it does not.
The researchers looked at what kinds of birth control pills women took before pregnancy — either combined estrogen-progestin pills or progestin-only pills — and tracked rates of lower respiratory tract infections, wheezing and asthma in their children. Tens of thousands of children were followed for 6 months to 3 years.
Children of women who had used combination oral birth control pills saw no increase in respiratory problems, but the preliminary data suggested a small increase in risk of wheezing at 6 to 8 months in babies of mothers who had take progestin-only pills.
“The small association with the much less commonly used progestin-only pill may not reflect cause and effect but does suggest that researchers look at these two types of pills separately in the future,” said senior author Dr. Stephanie J. London, principal investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in an AAAAI news release.
Could Xolair Help Kids Kick Milk Allergies?
n a small study of 11 children aged 7 to 17 with severe milk allergies, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Stanford University used the prescription allergy drug omalizumab (sold as Xolair) to speed patients’ tolerance to milk. The medication was used in tandem with desensitization therapy, in which patients are exposed to small but progressively larger amounts of the allergy-causing substance.
Children were first given injections of Xolair for nine weeks. Then, for the next two to three months, they continued the drug while also undergoing desensitization, or oral immunotherapy, increasing their exposure to milk until they reached 2 oz. of milk a day. For the next two months, the kids continued drinking 2 oz. of milk daily. Nine of the 11 children successfully completed the study.
By the end of the study, the nine children were able to drink a full 8-oz. glass of milk. In fact, they were able to consume up to 12 oz. of dairy products a day with little or no difficulty.
“When you try to go on a diet that is completely free of milk, it is very difficult because many foods have a little bit of milk protein in them,” study co-author Dr. Kari C. Nadeau, an allergist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, told HealthDay. “From a practical standpoint, this treatment allowed these patients to increase all types of milk products in their diets: They were able to eat yogurt, cheese, bread, a muffin. One patient in our study said, ‘I can finally eat goldfish crackers.'”
Nadeau’s co-author, Dr. Dale Umetsu at Children’s Hospital Boston, agreed: “It’s life changing. Now they can eat pizza and ice cream with their friends. It’s a very important change to their lifestyle,” he told WebMD.
Umetsu noted that the study participants had severe allergies. On average, their allergies scored about 90 on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most severe. These early findings suggest that Xolair, which works by blocking the immune protein IgE that triggers allergic reactions, may help kids tolerate desensitization therapy better, but further research is needed. For now, the drug isn’t approved for children under 12.