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Mothers' Stress Ups Kids' Asthma Risk

Mothers who are chronically stressed during their child's early years may produce a higher risk of asthma for the child, regardless of their income, gender, or other known risk factors.

The researchers analyzed the medical records of 14,000 children born in Manitoba, Canada in 1995 who were continuously registered with Manitoba Health Services until 2003. They determined whether the children had current asthma at age 7 by evaluating records of physician visits, hospitalizations, and medications in the year of the child's seventh birthday and related it to maternal distress defined by physician visits, hospitalizations, and medication for depression and anxiety.

Even after taking into account known risk factors (eg, maternal asthma, urban location), long-term maternal stress was associated with an increase of nearly a third in the prevalence of childhood asthma. The research, published recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was the first study of a non-high-risk group of children to report an association with childhood asthma.

Data Shed Light on Asthma Costs and Use

A comparison of the medical costs and relative effectiveness of single asthma controller therapy with other asthma drug regimens showed that newer, more expensive controller therapies for asthma are being dispensed more frequently. Their cost-effectiveness has yet to be determined, however.

The findings are based on analysis of 2002 to 2005 records of prescriptions, health care use, and total medical costs of a group of 96,631 patients in a large managed care organization. The researchers found that total asthma drug expenses were significantly lower for patients who used a single, controller-inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), compared with those who used single controller leukotriene modifiers, long-acting beta-agonists, theophylline, and most combination controller regimens.

The researchers also found that use of single controller ICS, compared with single controller leukotriene modifiers and combination controllers, was associated with significantly lower asthma-related use of health care services. In the article, published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (February 28, 2008), the researchers said that the findings support the national asthma guidelines that recommend single controller ICS as the preferred single asthma controller treatment.

Breath Test to Detect Asthma

A new technique may help physicians detect certain diseases, including asthma, by sampling a patient's breath. The laser analyzer uses mirrors to bounce the laser's light back and forth until it has touched every molecule a patient exhales, reported the researchers in Optics Express (February 2008).

The technique, called cavity-enhanced direct optical frequency comb spectroscopy, can help detect tiny traces of compounds that can point to various diseases. For example, individuals with asthma may produce too much nitric oxide, exhaled in the breath.

"This technique can give a broad picture of many different molecules in the breath all at once," said lead researcher Jun Ye, PhD.

Pregnant Moms: Healthy Diet Fends Off Asthma, Allergies in Kids

Expectant mothers who stick with a Mediterranean diet may help protect their children against asthma and allergies. A Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, dairy products, and olive oil.

For the research, 468 mother-and-child pairs were followed from pregnancy up to 6.5 years after birth. During the study, information was culled on eating habits and on the children's asthma and allergy symptoms. The researchers found that 36% of mothers ate a low-quality Mediterranean diet during pregnancy, while the remaining mothers ate a high-quality Mediterranean diet.

The findings showed that a little more than 13% of all the children had persistent wheezing, 17% had positive responses to skin test allergens, and almost 6% had asthma-like symptoms and positive skin test results. Eating a high-quality Mediterranean diet during pregnancy resulted in having children more likely to be asthma-and allergy-free, compared with eating a low-quality Mediterranean diet. The study also found that mothers who ate red meat more than 3 to 4 times a week appeared to up their children's risk for asthma and allergies. The findings were published recently in Thorax.

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