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Food Allergen Sensitization May Increase the Severity of Asthma in Children

(May 9, 2005 - The presence of a food sensitization may increase asthma in children, according to a study in the May 2005 Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Julie Wang, MD, from Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, and colleagues evaluated blood serum samples from 504 children with asthma, ages 4-9 years old, randomly selected from the National Cooperative Inner City Asthma Study (NCICAS). They sought to determine the prevalence rate of food allergen sensitization among inner city children with asthma.

Since the data was obtained randomly and anonymously, researchers were unable to determine if a food allergy existed in the children evaluated. A food allergy is an immune system reaction to a specific food, and requires the use of food challenges to determine if an allergy exists. Allergic sensitization is defined by the presence of specific IgE antibodies in the blood.

Researchers found that the prevalence of food sensitization, and likely food allergy, is highly prevalent in inner city children with asthma. After testing the children for specific IgE to six common food allergens (egg, milk, soy, peanut, wheat and fish), researchers found:

> Forty-five percent of the children were sensitive to at least one food allergen.

> Children sensitive to food had higher rates of hospitalizations due to their asthma.

> Children sensitized to food required more steroid medications to manage their asthma symptoms.

Children sensitized specifically to soy and fish had significantly higher rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and increased medication use.

While previous studies have shown a link between asthma and food allergy, the current JACI study is one of the first to demonstrate a correlation between food sensitization and the severity of asthma symptoms.

Researchers concluded that the presence of food sensitization may serve as a marker for identifying children with more severe asthma. They recommend that caretakers should consider screening patients with moderate to severe asthma whose disease is not well controlled with standard asthma medications.

Source: AAAAI


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