Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 10:07 UK

'Air shower' hope for asthmatics

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

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Jack Stevenson on how he copes with his severe asthma

Jack Stevenson has severe asthma.

He can never leave the house without his inhaler, and his asthma can be triggered by many triggers including his allergies to peanuts, pollen, any furry animals and birds.

His mum Sharon said: "Every time we have to go out of the house we have to take his medication and I am on call 24 hours a day for problems."

Air purifier

The family has enrolled on a trial being run at St. Mary's Hospital, London, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

For the next year Jack, aged 14, from Southend, will have an air purification machine fitted above his bed to clean the air while he sleeps.

The machine removes dust particles and cleans the air of allergens.

I think it is going to make a big difference to children with asthma
Heather Hanna

Although Jack is not sure whether he has the real 2,000 Airsonett machine or a dummy version, his nights have been less disrupted.

"I am having deeper sleeps and I wake up less tired.

"Before I got the machine I used to wake up most nights and was then tired at school the next day," he said.

New trial

St, Mary's are hoping to recruit over 70 children, aged over seven for the trial.

Research nurse Heather Hanna, said preliminary results from a Swedish study of 28 patients had found people using the machine had been able to reduce medication.

"They also reported they were able to do sport better and sleep better, which was really good," she said.

The air shower
The air shower cleans the air at night

"And their rhinitis, inflammation of the nose, symptoms improved a lot.

"So we are really looking at not just whether their asthma improves and whether they use less medication, but also whether their sleep is better as this makes a massive difference for the parents as well as the children.

"We are looking for children whose asthma is fairly bad and are on steroid inhalers, we are also looking for children who are allergic to cat and dog hair and dust mites."

Trial hopes

Each child taking part in the trial will have a machine fitted in their bedroom. Two out of three will get the real machine, while rest will get the dummy version. Each child will be asked to keep a diary and will be closely monitored by doctors.

Patients have skin tests. Pic credit: St.Bartholomew's Hospital, London/Science Photo Library
Skin tests are used to see what substances trigger asthma attacks

Paediatrician Dr Bob Boyle said previous studies had shown clean air can be beneficial to health.

"Most childhood asthma is caused in part by allergy and in an ideal world you would avoid the allergic dust mites.

"In some older Italian studies children with asthma were taken to the Alps, where there are no dust mites and their asthma got better.

"No one has been able to achieve this to date. Even if you vacuum and clean your carpets a lot your child is still exposed.

"This study allows us to provide remarkably pure air at night, which should have an effect on their asthma," he said.

But asthma groups are dubious that the new system can work.

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at Asthma UK said she has doubts.

"Dust and other particles in the air can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.

"However, despite the ability of air cleaning devices to remove such particles, studies have so far failed to provide convincing evidence that they improve asthma symptoms."

Children from all over the UK will be considered for the trial. Families wanting to take part should ring 07770 905297.




SEE ALSO
'Summer spelt misery for me'
16 Dec 06 |  Health
Asthma
08 Jan 04 |  Medical notes

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