Friday, December 20th, 2013
Research has long shown that children who grow up with family pets have a lower incidence of pet allergies and asthma, but a new study is closer to identifying the reason why. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco discovered that homes with dogs have higher levels of certain beneficial bacteria that help kids’ developing immune systems be in balance and less likely to “overreact” to pet dander and other airborne allergens. More from Boston.com:
Previous research suggests that the establishment of certain gut bacteria in the intestinal tracts of newborns could affect their development of asthma later in childhood. Certain harmful bacteria associated with the use of antibiotics, for example, were found by European researchers to increase a child’s risk of asthma, while living with a dog or cat in the house was found in other studies to decrease the risk.
“We wanted to see which organisms were protective,” said study co-author Susan Lynch, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. She and her colleagues exposed some young mice to both dust from a dog owner’s home as well as dust from a dog-free home. Then, they exposed the mice to common allergens. The researchers found that those exposed to dog dust were less likely to have allergic reactions and inflammation in their breathing passages (a sign of asthma) than those exposed to the regular dust. The results were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers identified a particular bacteria in the dog dust—Lactobacillus johnsonii—and found that giving it to the mice protected them against respiratory virus infections, though not as well as the dog dust itself.
Likely, other beneficial bacteria also exist in this dust, and Lynch said future studies will try to determine what those are. “Lactobacillus could play an important role in structuring a healthy bacteria biome in the gut early in life,” Lynch said, “but we have no actual evidence of that yet.”
Image: Child and dog, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
In spite of repeated public health messages warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke, too many children with asthma are still exposed to it. Secondhand smoke is known to exacerbate their symptoms and raise their risk of serious complications, according to new research published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Reuters has more:
According to national data from 2003 to 2010, half of all children ages 6 to 19, even those with asthma, have been exposed to secondhand smoke.
For kids ages 6 to 11, even low levels of second hand smoke were linked to more missed school days, trouble sleeping, less physical activity and more wheezing, the authors write in Academic Pediatrics.
The fact that kids with asthma are still inhaling others’ smoke is a real problem, said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, who studies children’s’ exposure to secondhand smoke at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
“Secondhand smoke consists of particulate matter, and chemicals, both of which induce an inflammatory response in the airways, which can cause an asthma attack,” said Wilson, who was not involved in the study.
Limiting physical activity is also dangerous because it increases the chances a child will become obese, which worsens asthma, she told Reuters Health.
For older children, secondhand smoke was not linked to those negative symptoms.
Image: Asthmatic child with a smoker, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
A 7-year-old and 5-year-old recently ran more than two miles on an Oregon hiking trail to get help for their mother, who suffered respiratory failure after an asthma attack. Led by the family dog, the girls helped each other over tricky terrain to reach a ranger who alerted rescue personnel. Here’s the story from Yahoo! Shine:
Heather Conrad-Smith is now recovering and credits her daughters for saving her life. “It still blows me away my two girls saved my life,” Conrad-Smith told KEPR of the harrowing rescue. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”
It was supposed to be an effortless nature hike while on a family vacation, so the former nurse, who has asthma, decided not to bring her inhaler. She thought the pace of the hike would be easy, especially with her two young daughters, Ashleigh and Kelianne, in tow.
But on the way back from their 10-mile loop, Conrad-Smith found herself short of breath. Her husband, Steve, carried her but knew he couldn’t get her the help she desperately needed in time. Suffering from respiratory failure, which limits oxygen passing from the lungs to the bloodstream, she needed help fast, so Conrad-Smith instructed her daughters to continue ahead on the trail and run for help.
With their family dog leading the way, the two girls swiftly guided each other over fallen trees and rocks, mindful of the nearby cliff with a lake below them. “We had to walk on the rocks and I went superquick, and I didn’t even fall,” Kelianne told a KEPR reporter.
After running for 2 miles, Kelianne and Ashleigh spotted a ranger, who called for help. Firefighters quickly rescued Heather, thanks to precise location details from Conrad-Smith’s daughters.
Image: Child hiking on fallen tree, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Though many children grow out of asthma they have at a young age, a new study has found that children who have severe pet allergies may have to live with their asthma well into young adulthood. More from Reuters:
Swedish researchers followed seven- and eight-year-olds with asthma through their teens and among those with the combination of severe asthma and animal allergies as kids, 82 percent still had asthma at age 19.
“Asthma is a dynamic condition which often remits but also frequently relapses,” said lead author Dr. Martin Andersson of The OLIN Studies, Norrbotten County Council in Luleå, Sweden.
Risk factors for asthma are complex and make it hard to predict which kids with wheezing or shortness of breath will still have those problems years later, Andersson told Reuters Health. As with previous research, the new study found that girls were less likely to “grow out of” asthma.
However, the link between childhood allergies to furred animals like cats, dogs and horses and persistent asthma later in life had not been seen in previous studies, Andersson said.
Image: Boy with asthma, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 1st, 2013
A new genetic test may be able to predict a child’s risk of having asthma that lasts into adulthood. With the cost of medical treatment for asthma and it’s complications adding up to around $56 billion each year according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this test could help doctors determine which children need intensive childhood care to potentially lower their risk of long-term symptoms. More from Time.com:
This new study, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, uses fifteen specific, isolated genetic markers that are thought to be associated with the physical symptoms of the disease to develop what is called a genetic risk score. Over the course of the 40-year study of 880 participants conducted by researchers at Duke University, those with higher genetic scores were more likely to miss school or work or be hospitalized due to their asthma-related symptoms than those with lower scores. Based on a 38 year follow-up, those with higher scores also were more likely to have symptoms as adults.
Physicians currently use a patient’s family history of asthma to help determine the patient’s risk of the disease. However, since he genetic markers used to develop a person’s genetic risk score do not take into account this family history of the disease, this research may mean that doctors need to rethink how they evaluate asthma risk factors in their patients.
Image: Child with asthma inhaler, via Shutterstock
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