1Covering bedding cuts kids'
need for asthma drugs
Encasing mattresses and pillows in special covers may help asthmatic children cut down on
their use of powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, new study findings from Denmark suggest.
After 1 year, about 73% of youngsters given the polyurethane covers cut
their dose of inhaled steroids by at least half, compared with 24% of children given
cotton covers, according to the report published in the January issue of the Journal of
Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Such polyurethane covers have long been recommended as a way to cut down
dust-mite allergen, the most common cause of allergic asthma, although how effective they
are has been unclear. The proteins associated with dust mites, the ubiquitous microscopic
creatures that live in and on many household surfaces, can collect in pillows and
In the current study, Dr. Susanne Halken of the Sonderborg Hospital and
colleagues had 26 asthmatic children aged 5 to 15 use pillows and mattresses completely
encased in semi-permeable polyurethane. A second group of 21 children were given mattress
and pillow covers made of good quality cotton.
All of the children has asthma, were allergic to dust mites and had never used
such covers before. Youngsters allergic to cats or pollen were excluded from the study.
Before and during the study, the researchers tapered the children's inhaled
steroids to the lowest effective dose. Corticosteroids are medications used to treat
inflammatory conditions such as asthma and chronic lung disease. They are usually used in
combination with bronchodilators, which are drugs that widen the airways and make it
easier to breathe.
"We found a significant effect of the coated polyurethane mattress and
pillow encasings on the need for inhaled steroids," the researchers report.
They found that the dose of inhaled steroids was cut by about 50% in those
children without causing their symptoms to get worse or requiring an increase in other
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, and for reasons that are
unknown, the number of asthma cases has been on the rise in the US and other developed
SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Occupational asthma is a respiratory disorder directly related to inhaling fumes, gases,
vapors or dust while "on the job." Due to this exposure, asthma may develop for
the first time in a previously healthy worker, or pre-existing asthma may be aggravated.
Occupational asthma has become the most prevalent work-related lung
disease in developed countries.
Occupational asthma may be caused by direct irritants, allergic triggers or pharmacologic
factors. Irritants that provoke occupational asthma include exposure to hydrochloric acid,
sulfur dioxide or ammonia found in the petroleum or chemical industries. These asthmatic
episodes frequently occur immediately after exposure to the substance, and allergic
sensitization is not involved. Workers who already have asthma or some other respiratory
disorder are particularly affected by this type of exposure.
Allergic factors play a role in many cases of occupational asthma. This type of
asthma frequently requires long term exposure to a work-related substance before allergic
Examples of this allergic-type of occupational asthma include exposure to the
enzymes of the bacteria bacillus subtilis in the washing powder industry, and exposure to
castor beans, green coffee beans and papain in the food processing industry. Other
allergic forms of occupational asthma can occur in workers in the plastic,. rubber or
resin industries following exposure to small chemical molecules in the air.
Furthermore, veterinarians, fishermen and animal handlers in laboratories can
develop allergic reactions to animal proteins. Health care workers can develop asthma from
aerosolized proteins from latex gloves or from the mixing of powdered medications.
Pharmacologic factors include the inhalation of dust or liquid. These substances
do not lead to allergic sensitization, but instead directly lead to the release of
naturally occurring substances such as histamine within the lung, which then in turn lead
Once the cause is identified, exposure levels should be reduced (a worker could
be moved to another job within the plant, for example).
Work areas should be closely monitored so that exposure to asthma-causing
substances is kept at the lowest possible levels.
Common Agents That Cause Occupational Asthma - Agent Workers At Risk
Detergent users, pharmaceutical
Janitors, cleaning staff
Manufacturers of plastics, rubber & foam
Shellac and lacquer handlers
Users of plastics
3Indoor plastics linked to respiratory
problems in kids
Inexpensive, easy-to-clean plastic materials used to cover walls and floors may
put young children at increased risk of developing respiratory tract problems, results of
a recent study suggest.
Researchers found that children who lived in homes in which the walls were
covered with plastic materials were more likely to suffer from problems of the lower
respiratory tract such as persistent wheezing, a prolonged cough and phlegm.
These children were also more likely to be diagnosed with asthma or pneumonia,
the report indicates. However, the study could not conclusively prove that the wall
coverings were the cause of the respiratory ailments. It is possible that parents
installed such coverings because the children had respiratory problems.
"Emissions from plastic materials indoors may have adverse effects on the
lower respiratory tracts of small children," write Dr. Jouni Jaakkola and colleagues
in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American
Public Health Association. Such materials can emit chemicals, such as plasticizer agents
used in the production of polyvinyl chloride.
"These chemicals may cause airway inflammation and thus increase the risk
of bronchial obstruction, asthma, and perhaps susceptibility to respiratory
infections," the authors add.
Jaakkola, of the Nordic School of Public Health in Goteborg, and colleagues at
the University of Helsinki, Sweden, and Oxford University in the UK surveyed the parents
of more than 2,500 Finnish children aged 1 to 7 years. The investigators found that
plastic wall materials were present in less than 3% of homes and that about 2% of all the
children had asthma. The researchers did not actually measure the amounts of chemicals in
the homes of the children.
"Given the vast number of chemicals present in plastics and other building
materials, it is not feasible to measure all of the relevant compounds in indoor
air," Jaakkola's team notes.
Their findings "provide additional evidence that indoor plastic materials
may emit chemicals that have adverse effects on the lower respiratory tracts of small
children," according to the report. The results "warrant further attention to
the types of plastic materials used in interior decoration.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2000;90:797-799.
4Swiffer cloths pick up dust, dust mites, pet
dander, and other particulates commonly found in the home very effectively. A study showed
that they reduced 97% of cat and dog allergens.
There are now online stores that specifically support asthma, sinus and allergy
sufferers. For further reading and to obtain products that can help in the home
environment such as HEPA air purifiers, HEPA vacuum cleaners, dust mite encasings,
hypoallergenic bedding and dehumidifiers, visit Allergy Resources International which has
listings for every country.
There is now a test available to measure the number of dust mites in your house
dust. Just send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.