Attacking allergens cuts asthma

Medicine & Science

September 13, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Children experience fewer asthma problems when their homes are scrubbed, filtered, vacuumed, exterminated or otherwise protected from allergy triggers, a new study of inner-city kids in six cities suggests.

The research was designed to test a simple but surprisingly controversial idea: If asthmatic children have allergies, does it make sense to scour their environment?

The answer hasn't been that clear. Although some studies have found a benefit, others, including a highly publicized study of dust mites last year, have found that such protections are not worth the effort.

But no previous study has tried to attack everything a child is allergic to, from dust mites to cockroaches to tobacco smoke. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and other institutions found that when all allergens were reduced, children stayed healthier.

The improvement in asthma symptoms was on par with that seen for medications alone, the researchers reported in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We can do these things that make a difference," said University of Texas Southwestern's Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla. About 9 million children in the United States have asthma.

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