/publications/issue/2009/August2009/AsthmaWatch-0809

Asthma Watch

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Study Examines Folic Acid for Allergy, Asthma Relief

People with asthma and allergies may benefit from taking folic acid to treat their symptoms. Reviewing the medical records of >8000 patients aged 2 to 85, the researchers tracked the effect of folic acid levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms on levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.

The findings showed that patients with higher blood levels of folic acid had less IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies and incidents of wheezing, and were less prone to develop asthma. “Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms,” said lead investigator Elizabeth Matsui, MD.

“But we still need to figure out the exact mechanism behind it, and to do so, we need studies that follow people receiving treatment with folic acid before we even consider supplementation with folic acid to treat or prevent allergies and asthma,” she added. The study ap peared in the April 29, 2009, issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Vitamin D Levels Affect Disease Severity

Researchers have found evidence to support an association between vitamin D insufficiency and asthma severity. Serum levels of vitamin D in >600 Costa Rican children were inversely linked with several indicators of allergy and asthma severity.

Whereas previous in vitro studies have suggested that vitamin D may affect how airway cells respond to treatment with inhaled steroids, the current study is the first in vivo study of vitamin D and disease severity in children with asthma, according to the study published in the May 1, 2009, issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study results indicated that the children with lower vitamin D levels were considerably more prone to have been hospitalized for asthma in the previous year, more likely to have airways with increased hyperactivity, and were likely to have used more inhaled corticosteroids. The children also were significantly more apt to have several markers of allergy.

Asthma in Family Ups Odds

A study in the May 2009 issue of Genetics in Medicine found that adults with a family history of asthma are up to 6 times more prone to develop asthma, compared with the average person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on 1500 adults, aged 20 and older, and classified them as being at average, moderate, or high risk of asthma based on the number and closeness of relatives with the disease. The findings indicated that 85% of individuals were at average risk, 13% at moderate risk, and 2% at high risk.

The average-risk group had an asthma prevalence of 9.4%, the moderate-risk group faced a 20.4% risk, and the highrisk group had a 37.6% risk. The findings also showed that the asthma risk was 2.4 times higher for individuals at moderate risk and 4.8 times higher for those at high risk, compared with those at average risk.

Steps to Combat Allergic Rhinitis

An article in the May 2009 issue of Harvard’s Men’s Health Watch focused on seasonal and year-round allergic rhinitis. Strategies for keeping allergic rhinitis at bay include avoiding triggers; easing symptoms with medications, such as antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays, nasal steroid sprays, leukotriene blockers, and decongestants; and getting allergy shots.

Individuals with seasonal rhinitis should limit their outdoor activities when pollen counts are high, keep windows and doors closed as much as possible, and use air conditioners instead of fans. For year-round allergic rhinitis, people should put pillows, box springs, and mattresses in sealed plastic covers to avoid dust mites, use a dehumidifier, and bathe cats or dogs weekly and keep them off the furniture.

Asthma Is a Risk Factor for Swine Flu

 

As New York City sees illness from H1N1 (swine flu) continue to occur, the New York State Department of Health reported that a preliminary analysis of 152 hospitalized patients showed that at least 82% have belonged to one or more groups at higher risk of severe illness or complications from influenza.

To date, the most common risk factor in New York City has been asthma—an underlying risk factor among 41% of the New Yorkers hospitalized with the viral infection. Other risk factors include being less than 2 years of age, having a compromised immune system, having heart disease, or being pregnant. The health department recommends individuals with asthma or any other risk factors contact their physician immediately if they develop flu-like symptoms. 

FAST FACT: Each day 11 Americans die from asthma.

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