Entries in Asthma (23)


Chemical Common in Plastic Containers Linked to Asthma

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Young children exposed to a specific chemical, commonly present in plastic containers and metal cans used to hold food, may be at higher risk of developing asthma, according to a new study.

The report, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found a link between exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and increased rates of asthma among children, according to HealthDay. BPA has previously been linked to respiratory problems, obesity, increased blood sugar levels, and behavioral issues.

Dr. Kathleen Donohue, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, explained to HealthDay that the link between BPA and asthma is only an association, and not necessarily a cause.

Investigators studied the levels of a form of BPA that is found in urine after exposure to the chemical in 568 women and their children. The measurements were first taken during the third trimester, and then when the children were 3, 5 and 7 years old.

During each measurement, about 90 percent of the children had some BPA in their bodies. Interestingly, the researchers found that the children exposed to BPA after birth had increased rates of wheezing and asthma.

The report found no connection between exposure to BPA during the third trimester and asthma rates.

While some experts remain unconvinced, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay, "It is unclear what the mechanism is, but it seems clear there really is a mechanism."

Horovitz recommended avoiding BPA as much as possible to HealthDay, saying that people should "stop using number 3 and number 7 plastics, use more glass containers, more metal containers."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study Questions Need for Daily Asthma Meds

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of patients with asthma may not need to take their medicine every day after all.

Nearly 25 million people in the United States suffer from asthma, and many of them use an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) medicine two times per day, every day, to prevent asthma symptoms. Unlike albuterol, a medicine that opens the airways and is used only to treat symptoms or asthma attacks, patients on inhaled corticosteroids are told to use this medicine even when they are not having symptoms.

Now, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests this twice-a-day medication may not be needed.

This may be important news for patients suffering from a disease that not only costs billions in health care dollars, but also leads to missed days of work and school, as well as early death.

Researchers from 10 different institutions in the U.S. looked at 342 adults with mild to moderate asthma who were taking inhaled corticosteroids. They randomly put patients into three groups to study the effects of different medication management approaches.

Members of the first group had their medication adjusted by a physician every six weeks based on standard clinical guidelines. The second group had its medication adjusted every six weeks based on results of a breathing test, and members of the third group adjusted their medication daily based on their symptoms.

Researchers found that patients in the third group -- those who used their inhaled corticosteroids only when they had symptoms -- did just as well as the patients who used it every day. These patients had no difference in lung function and days missed from school and work, worsening of symptoms, and asthma attacks.

They also had no difference in what is called the reactivity of their lung tissue -- the factor behind asthma attacks.

Inhaled corticosteroids are considered generally safe; side effects tend to be mild and include irritation and dryness of the throat as well as an increased risk of thrush, a yeast infection of the tongue and mouth. A few studies, however, suggest the possibility of more serious, systemic consequences, such as decreased growth in children, decreased bone density, and suppression of the immune system. The jury is still out on these effects, though, and these problems may be more likely linked to incorrect use of the drugs.

Experts not involved in the study said the findings are important.

“This is very surprising and very provocative data in that it seems to show that ‘less may be the same’ in the treatment of some patients with persistent asthma,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Bassett added that although inhaled corticosteroids are very safe drugs, decreasing their use could have major cost benefits.

But physicians also warn that asthma patients -- or parents of children with asthma -- should not act on these findings without talking to their doctors.

Dr. Andrew Ting, a pediatric pulmonologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said he feared that some parents might think this means that they can stop giving their children inhaled corticosteroids every day -- despite the fact that in younger patients a daily dose is still believed to be necessary to keep asthma at bay.

“I’m concerned it may be misinterpreted in the pediatric population,” he said, explaining that children differ from adults in the way asthma affects their lungs.

And Bassett said that for all patients, more data is needed before doctors can make a formal recommendation.

“This is one study, we need to get more information as well as clinical data to support this change in regimen,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Asthma Treatment Successful but Costly

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For hundreds of severe asthmatics who have undergone bronchial thermoplasty -- the first nondrug treatment for asthma approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010 -- the results have been life-changing.

"When you've lived with it for so long, you learn to adapt to it, but it's been amazing realizing after the thermoplasty how much I was limited," said Jenny McLeland, 33, of St. Louis, who has had asthma since birth.

However, the dramatic improvement comes with a hefty price tag.

Bronchial thermoplasty is expensive, costing anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the procedure, and most insurance companies won't pay for it.

The treatment is reserved only for patients for whom medication hasn't worked.  Although five-year follow-up studies have found the procedure to be safe and effective, most insurance companies still consider the procedure experimental.

McLeland is one of many who have bypassed the cost of the treatment by enrolling in a clinical trial.  Her husband was also successfully treated through the same trial.  This treatment is not something she could afford if it wasn't for a clinical trial, she said.  

But not all patients who qualify for the procedure necessarily qualify for a study.  Nearly 25 million Americans have asthma.  As much as 10 percent of people with asthma have what is considered the most severe form and make up the majority of the health care costs of the disease.

Americans spend nearly $18 billion on asthma, the majority of which is spent on treating the illness through emergency hospital visits and multiple medications, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

"Knowing that we have another way to attack asthma and have another tool in our toolbox is extremely exciting," said Dr. Sumita Khatri, co-director of the Asthma Center for the Cleveland Clinic.

Bronchial thermoplasty works by delivering thermal energy to the airway wall through a catheter to burn away smooth muscle that is inflamed in asthma patients.  The procedure, completed in three sessions, widens the airways enough to decrease the ability of the airways to constrict in response to a trigger and reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.

It is currently available in more than 150 medical centers in 40 states.  Studies suggest that the average patient who undergoes bronchial thermoplasty is likely to experience a 30 percent reduction in asthma symptoms and an 82 percent reduction in asthma-related visits to the emergency room.

But the procedure isn't expected to rid patients of medications completely.  While bronchial thermoplasty is FDA-approved to reduce asthma symptoms, it has not been shown to improve lung function or reduce over-response in the airways that triggers the need for rescue medications.

"Your asthma will not be cured," said Khatri, who said that research is still under way regarding the procedure.  "All of these [procedures] are nice and good, and hopefully we'll find more benefits in the longer term, but you'll still need to be on your asthma medications."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleep Loss Common Among Children with Asthma Who Live in Cities, Study Finds 

Spike Mafford/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research shows that sleep loss is common among children with asthma who live in cities, and is a significant factor in missed school days, emergency room visits and lower levels of involvement in sports, Health Day reports.

The findings reveal that Hispanic children are especially affected. The study involved the parents of almost 150 children with asthma who were treated at the Bradley Hasbro Research Center at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I.

The lead author of the study said it's important for parents of children with asthma to routinely monitor their children's sleep to minimize disruptions and guarantee proper asthma control, says Health Day.

Asthma accounts for 10.5 million missed school days each year in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The findings were published in the July issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves Generic Versions of Singulair

JB Reed/Bloomberg News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first generic versions of the drug Singulair for allergy and asthma sufferers.

The drug, which blocks the action of substances that cause hayfever and other allergy symptoms, is the latest in a string of well-known drugs – like Lipitor and Plavix – that have been on the market so long that their patents no longer apply.

“For people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma and allergies, it is important to have effective and affordable treatment options,” Gregory P. Geba, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Office of Generic Drugs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release. “The generic products approved today will expand those options for patients.”

The generic versions of the drug approved Friday are for use in both adults and children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dogs May Prevent Babies from Getting Asthma 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- If you've ever worried about having your two-legged baby around your four-legged baby this may ease your fears.  A new study from the American Society for Microbiology reveals that house dust from homes with dogs may help in protecting children from developing asthma.

Mice exposed to dust from homes with dogs were better off than those who were not according to researchers.

Dr. Tamiko Ralston from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles says, “It’s more helpful if you’re exposed to these things early in life so if you’re born into a house that has dogs it would be more helpful than bringing a dog home to your 5 year old.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Reporter Anthony Shadid’s Death Highlights Asthma Dangers

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Asthma experts responding to the death of New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid say his death is a sad reminder of the potentially serious nature of his condition.

The 43-year-old journalist’s death, apparently the result of a severe asthma attack, occurred while he was on assignment in Syria. Times photographer Tyler Hicks, who was with Shadid at the time and tried to revive his colleague, said Shadid had already had a smaller asthma attack days before his death as the pair accompanied smugglers from Syria to Turkey. On the day of his death, Shadid collapsed, Hicks told the Times, and soon lost consciousness. Hicks said Shadid’s breathing was faint and shallow before he died.

About 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetimes, according to statistics from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. And Dr. Harold Nelson, a professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver,  said roughly 3,600 people die each year in the United States from asthma.

“Fortunately, this is down from a peak, some 15 years ago, of about 5,600,” Nelson said in an email, noting that the use of inhaled corticosteroids that reduce the likelihood of a severe, life-threatening attack. Despite this advance, he said, dangers still persist  for many.

“Individuals with asthma often underestimate the severity of their condition and often rely on ‘rescue medicine’ such as an albuterol inhaler to control their symptoms, he said. “These people are at increased risk of a severe and even fatal attack when they encounter ‘triggers’ for their asthma.”

The remoteness of Shadid’s location and the nature of his assignment may have also made management of his condition more difficult, doctors said.

“Being in a conflict zone, far from medical care, it is possible that Mr. Shadid focused on things other than his personal health,” said Dr. Sally Wenzel, director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute at UPMC, in an email to ABC News. “Often that may mean forgetting to take critical asthma medications that prevent severe asthma attacks, like inhaled corticosteroids.”

Doctors said that though Shadid’s circumstances may have made it difficult for him to ward off an asthma attack, most who live with asthma can take steps to protect themselves.

“Most deaths from asthma are preventable,” said Dr. Miles Weinberger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa. “A study on asthma deaths from the New England Journal of Medicine several years ago found that most were from what could be called ‘too little care too late’ -- that is, there was sufficient time for intervention to have prevented the progression of an asthma exacerbation to a fatal conclusion.”

Though details have yet to emerge to confirm that Shadid’s death was indeed a result of an asthma attack, asthma doctors said that the sad story can serve as an important reminder to those who live with the condition to take necessary steps to stay safe.

“Avoiding known triggers of your asthma when you can is also a good idea,  but when you can’t avoid them -- as would seem to be the case here -- making sure that you are taking your daily corticosteroid medications can still help prevent these types of disastrous attacks,” Wenzel said.

“Asthma still kills. And it often kills young people with incredible futures.  Awareness -- and appropriate treatment -- is critically important.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Halloween Allergies You May Not Have Considered

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- All the Halloween sweet treats, fun costumes, and spooky decorations are fun for parents and kids, but those same holiday staples can be truly frightful when it comes to children's allergies.

Allergy specialists say food allergy triggers are their biggest concern on Halloween, but there are other items that can cause dangerous reactions in children.

"The most common childhood allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs and milk, and these are certainly in a lot of candies," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

One of the most important things to do is to check what's in the candy. That's especially true, allergists say, if candy or treats don't have ingredients listed on the labels or have no labels at all.

If parents suspect their children may have food allergies, they should avoid any candy or baked goods with unknown ingredients. Children should also be taught to politely decline homemade treats.
Parents should also carry emergency medication with them, such as an epinephrine auto-injector and antihistamines.

The ACAAI considers costumes another potential Halloween hazard.

"Watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands," the academy warns. "Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy and spoil trick or treating fun." Parents should also check costume labels in case of latex allergies.
They also recommend washing old Halloween costumes in hot water if they are going to be re-used.     
Kids may be excited about their Halloween transformation into vampires or zombies, but some of the makeup they use could trigger skin allergies.

Face paints should wash off easily, and hypoallergenic makeup is the best option, according to the National Jewish Medical Center.

Children prone to red, itchy skin or eczema should not wear any kind of greasy face paint.

The ACAAI recommends using better-quality theater makeup, and also suggests testing makeup on a small area of skin before Halloween, since it can take a few days for an allergic reaction to occur.

And while fog machines can help create some scary holiday fun, they can also be dangerous for some children.

The chemical can irritate the airway, similar to smoke and other air pollutants.

Finally, although part of the holiday fun is all about the thrill of feeling scared, those emotions can lead to breathing problems in some children. Being out in the cold air and running from house to house can trigger asthma.

But just because some elements of traditional Halloween could bring about respiratory problems, that doesn't mean kids and adults can't have fun as long as they're prepared, experts say.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Low-Fat Yogurt Consumption Tied to Asthma in Kids, Says Study

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A new study suggests a link between women eating low-fat yogurt during pregnancy and an increased risk that their children will develop asthma and hay fever.

The research, which will be presented at a meeting of the European Respiratory Society, drew on Danish birth and health records to study the dairy intake of more than 61,000 women, and found that the children born to women who ate one or more low-fat fruit yogurts a day were more likely to develop asthma and hay fever than the children of women who didn't eat low-fat yogurt.

They also found that children of women who drank whole milk were at lower risk for developing asthma and hay fever than children of women who drank low-fat or skim milk.

Lead researcher Ekaterina Maslova at the Harvard School of Public Health said one reason for the association could be that certain fatty acids present in whole milk could offer a protective effect.

"[Some studies] have suggested that these fatty acids may be important for allergic disease development in humans," Maslova said in an email. Low-fat yogurt may not contain certain fatty acids believed to protect against asthma, she explained.

Despite the strong association, Maslova emphasized that the findings were only preliminary and didn't take other possible factors into account.

The study didn't account for the different types of dairy, so other active ingredients could be involved.
"We are also looking into the possibility that intake of low-fat yogurt may be a marker of other behaviors or lifestyle choices that may be driving these associations," said Maslova.

Experts say other studies have looked at the role of fatty acids on immune system function.

"Giving omega-3 fatty acids to pregnant women seems to reduce the risk of asthma in children," said Dr. Erick Forno, a pediatric pulmonologist at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body's metabolism, but the human body doesn't make them. Common sources are fish oils and certain plant oils.

Conjugated linoleic acids, or CLAs, are fatty acids found in dairy products such as yogurt. Forno said research has found that CLAs are similar to omega-3 fatty acids in terms of their ability to protect against asthma.

Other experts also stress that these findings merely suggest an association and are very preliminary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Arthritis Drug Help Asthma Sufferers?

Spike Mafford/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- New research into the genetics behind asthma risk suggests a potential new treatment for the debilitating disorder could be a drug also used for rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientists led by Manuel Ferreira of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, in Brisbane, Australia, compared the genomes of thousands of individuals with asthma to those of non-asthmatics and identified two new genetic variants that increase people's susceptibility to asthma.  Both variants affect the way the body releases chemical signals involved in immunity and inflammation.  It's the interaction between genes and the environment that leads to asthma.

"There have been many genetic variants that have been shown to be asthma risks, and these are two more," said Dr. Harold Nelson, allergist and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver.  "They're all important because they give you clues to the mechanisms that lie behind asthma."

Nelson -- who was not involved in this study -- and other specialists say this type of research can possibly lead to more treatments for asthma in people with these genetic variants, including the use of drugs that are already used for other conditions.

"There's a theoretical possibility that if you could modify genetic signals using a medication, you might be able to alter the risk for asthma and allergic sensitization," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  Fineman also had no involvement in the Australian research.

The authors say tocilizumab, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, could be a good option for treating asthma in people with one of the variants they identified and suggest that clinical trials could be beneficial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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