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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 03:24 GMT
Allergy hope for asthmatic children
Asthma child
Many factors could make asthma worse
Simple measures to reduce exposure to a range of allergy triggers and pollutants could cut the number of asthmatic children by almost 40%, says research.

The US scientists believe that more than 500,000 children under the age of six in that country would not have developed the disease if they lived in "allergen-free" houses.


Smoking near a child with asthma is tantamount to child abuse

Professor Ashley Woodcock, North West Lung Centre
They suggest a shortlist of potential triggers that could be removed by families where there is a history of asthma.

These include pets such as dogs or cats, gas cookers and cigarette smoke.

All of these are believed to increase the chances of a child who is genetically predisposed to asthma developing the disease, which can prove disabling, or even fatal in a very few cases.

If all three were eliminated, say the team from the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati, the number of asthma cases would be reduced by 39% .

Dr Bruce Lanphear, who led the study, looked at 8,257 children younger than six.

He said: "Children who had a history of allergies to a pet were 24 times more likely to have doctor-diagnosed asthma.

Pet rescue

"Parents need to consider carefully the risks and benefits of owning a pet, particularly during early childhood and especially if there is a maternal history of an allergic condition.

"Residential exposures account for more excess cases of childhood asthma than having a parent with a history of atopy (the predisposition to develop allergy)."

He added: "These and other data demonstrate that children's health is inextricably linked with housing."

Impracticalities highlighted

However, Professor Ashley Woodcock, a professor of Respiratory Medicine at the North West Lung Centre in Manchester, said it was impractical to eliminate all these allergens from the home.

He said: "I'm a dog lover myself, and I know how much they become part of the family.

"However, parents who have a child with asthma should consider having their child allergy-tested for the pet, and if they are allergic, consider getting rid of the pet.

"And certainly smoking near a child with asthma is tantamount to child abuse."

The research is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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