Henry Ford Health System Researchers Uncover New Clues In Causes Of Allergies, Asthma In Kids

February 24, 1997

In two separate studies, Henry Ford Health System researchers have found links between dust mites, season of birth and ethnicity and the chances of a child developing allergies or asthma.

The following are summaries of the presentations being made by Henry Ford Health System researchers at this year's annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in San Francisco, Calif., from Feb. 21-26. Interviews with the principal investigators are available.

Black Children Have More Frequent, Severe Asthma Than Whites

African American children have asthma more often and more frequently die from the respiratory disease than white children, concluded researchers at Henry Ford Health System.

Researchers examined 36 black children and 323 white children, ages 6-7, of similar socioeconomic status from suburban Detroit. They tested IgE serum levels, a type of blood test that is related to the risk of asthma, and response to a lung challenge.

Scientists found that when factors such as income and parental education levels were similar between the two groups, black children's lungs were more apt to wheeze. Black children also had higher levels of antibodies that cause asthma and allergies.

"We hope our findings result in a better understanding of how physicians should treat African American children with asthma," said the study's principal investigator Tonya Corbin, M.D., of the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Henry Ford Health System. "Black children need more aggressive treatment since their asthma can be more life-threatening."

Dr. Corbin said further research is needed to better understand the origins of these differences between the two groups.

Dust Mites, Season of Birth Affect Child's Chance of Allergies, Asthma

The season may be the reason your son or daughter is sneezing.

Researchers at Henry Ford Health System have found the time of year a child is born and the amount of exposure they have to dust mites are related to their chances of developing allergies or asthma.

The study found that children born in September, October or November had the highest IgE serum levels, while those born in June, July or August had the lowest.

The study tested 90 white, middle-class children's IgE serum levels D a variable used to test a person's susceptibility to allergies and one of the best indicators of the risk of asthma.

"We found that serum levels were higher when children were exposed to airborne dust mites, such as those found in mattresses, pillows, carpets and dust within the home," said Dennis Ownby, M.D., director of allergy research at Henry Ford Health System. "To our surprise, we also found a clear relationship between a child's IgE level and the time of year they were born."

This study gives parents more control over their child's health because there are preventive measures parents can take to reduce dust in the home, Dr. Ownby said. By properly covering mattresses, box springs and pillows with dust mite-free encasings, parents can reduce their child's chances of having allergies or asthma.

Henry Ford Health System

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