Risk of Steroid Treatment for Asthma in Children

Children experiencing an asthma attack who are treated with a short burst of oral steroids may have a brief and transient depression of immune response, according to a new study led by Université de Montréal. These findings, published in this month’s issue of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonology, have implications for asthmatic children who have flare-ups and who may be exposed to new contagious diseases.

Francine M. Ducharme, a Université de Montréal professor and pediatrician and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center sums it up. “There is no question that the administration of corticosteroids reduces the risk and duration of hospital admission in children with acute asthma and remains the most effective treatment for moderate and severe asthma exacerbations. However, the safety profile of these medications continues to raise concerns among parents and physicians. Concerns over their possible impact on the immune system stem from few rare reports linking or severe chickenpox infections linked with corticosteroid administration.”

The study is based on the immune response of children aged 3 to 17 years, who had arrived at the emergency department (ED) with an asthma attack. All subjects were given immune triggers (known as antigens) and the immune response between those who received corticosteroids versus those who did not were compared. “Several corticosteroid-treated children had a lower immune response, as measured by the amount of antibody produced, than non-treated kids,” says Ducharme.

However it seems that these findings indicate there may be a very transient immune suppression only in some children exposed to a new antigen at the same time as a corticosteroid administration. In other words your child needs to have an attack, steroids and a new antigen such as chicken pox within a six week period. This is reassuring as it does not apply to the majority of children who suffer asthma attacks, but before your child is prescribed oral corticosteroids you need to inform your doctor about any recent exposure to chickenpox in children who did not have chickenpox or the vaccine.

The researchers recommend that all children with asthma who have not had chickenpox should be vaccinated for this condition. Yet vaccinations are not the ideal route for everyone, and there are a number of well tried homoeopathic remedies which may be suitable for your child. Seek the advice of a qualified homoepath and to find one near you consult the register at www.homeopathy-soh.org/

Omega-3 health benefits for babies

September 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Despite the known benefits of omega-3 for a healthy heart, immune support and guarding against dementia, less than a quarter of British adults fail to reach even their basic requirement needs.

Now it seems that it is even more important for babies, but they need to have their supply from their mother while in the womb. In a detailed review of existing published scientific papers, published in Nutrition and Food Science Journal, leading dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton and Dr Emma Derbyshire, senior lecturer in Human Nutrition at Manchester Metropolitan University, examined the role and scope of omega-3 EFAs on health, as well as the likely intake needed to produce good results.

Baby asthma and eczema can be very distressing for new parents, and one discovery from their research has suggested that women who take fish oil capsules during pregnancy, and while breast feeding, may reduce the risk of asthma and eczema in their babies and aid normal brain and eye development. It also has benefit for the mother as having a good intake of Omega-3 can also reduce post-natal depression.

The benefits for the baby continue into childhood as it seems that children whose mothers had taken cod liver oil capsules (containing DHA and EPA) during later pregnancy scored considerably higher on mental processing tests than children whose mothers had taken a placebo during the research.

You may think you get enough Omega-3 from your diet, but the omega-3 content of certain foods is becoming more limited due to changes in farming practice, and if you eat fortified foods then they contain very little. Additionally, in the UK we are not meeting the Food Standards Agency’s recommended levels of fish intake by a long margin – and that’s another good source of Omega-3. Most adults would benefit from an Omega-3 supplement, and certainly anyone planning a family, or pregnant, needs to be its benefits in mind.

Folic acid may help treat allergies and asthma


This is the season when allergies can begin to make themselves felt and among natural remedies available, including bee pollen, there is now new evidence that folic acid, or vitamin B9, may also suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, carried out at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in the US, and reported in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

The link between blood levels of folate – the naturally occurring form of folic acid — and allergies adds to increased evidence that folate can help regulate inflammation which is at the root of allergic reactions. This research showed that people with the lowest folate levels had a 30 percent higher risk of developing allergies and a 31 percent higher risk of allergic symptoms than people with the highest folate levels. On the asthma front, there was a 16 percent higher risk of having asthma in those with the lowest folate levels.

Asthma affects more than 5 million adults and children in the UK, and is the most common chronic condition among children. Environmental allergies have an even wider reach so anything that helps strengthen your system to resist them has to be worth considering, particularly if you are already suffering from allergies.

The researchers say it’s too soon to start recommending folic acid supplements to prevent or treat people with asthma and allergies, but you could check how many of the folic-deficiency symptoms you have from this list:

* Irritability
* Mental fatigue, forgetfulness, or confusion
* Depression
* Insomnia
* General or muscular fatigue
* Gingivitis or periodontal disease

Adult men and women (except during pregnancy) are recommended to have 400 micrograms of folate a day and many cereals and grain products are already fortified with it so you may be getting enough. If you think you might be deficient then you might want to increase, or add, excellent food sources such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, green peas, avocado, banana, lentils and nuts.

The coldest remedy for Asthma?

May 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


Asthma sufferers usually have a variety of remedies available to them to help cope with their condition, but this week I read of one that is so simple, and a trifle bizarre, that I had to share it with you. A sufferer wrote in a forum that when they were having a really bad day and their eyes were really sore, they would open their freezer, put their head in, and take in a few big deep breath. That cold air really seemed to help them – let me know if it works for you too.

Anti inflammatory drugs without serious side effects


Those suffering from inflammatory conditions such as asthma and other chronic diseases are usually prescribed corticosteroids, and although these are highly effective they do carry the risk of some serious side effects. Of particular concern is when they are used to treat a child’s asthma, but these drugs can stunt their growth over time. In adults, they are used to treat Addison’s disease, but again their use can lead to the development of diabetes and hypertension.

Dr. Henry J. Lee has led research in anti-inflammatory, anti-AIDS and anti-cancer drugs for nearly 30 years and he and his team have been working to develop a safer approach that would eliminate inflammation without causing damage to the body. Reported to the MLA American Physiological Society on April 19, these so-called “antedrugs”, have now been developed at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, at Tallahassee in Florida.

Antedrug design is a new approach to create safer drugs that attack a problem such as inflammation then quickly become inactive before they can cause damage. The researchers were able to synthesize a new group of corticosteroids that have anti-asthmatic and anti-inflammatory properties that are isoxazoline derivatives, from prednisolone, and without adverse side effects or any systemic damage.

In fact, they found that antedrugs effectively reduced inflammation and were five times more potent than prednisolone in doing so.

Mediteranean diet reduces kids asthma risk by 78%

November 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Diets, Food & Nutrition

With 1 in 11 children currently receiving treatment for asthma it is now a very common condition – but that doesn’t make it any the less worrying. We have dealt with asthma before, but some news in this week might help make life easier for some of those children, and their parents. For those who are unsure about asthma in young children, the symptoms to look out for are:

* A cough at night
* A cold that doesn’t go away
* A whistling sound when breathing out

That last symptom is particularly relevant in the UK as we apparently have the highest prevalence of severe wheeze in children aged 13-14 years than anywhere else in the world.

Now the medical journal Allergy is suggesting a way parents can be more in control of the condition through some simple dietary changes. I have talked about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet for heart health in adults, but now it seems it could also relieve asthma symptoms in children. In Crete, where the Mediterranean diet is the norm, an estimated 80% of the children there eat fresh fruit at least twice a day and almost that same number also have fresh vegetables twice daily as well. (Sadly the research doesn’t tell us how they get them to eat so much without a fistfight) So why is it important? Well very few children in Crete have asthma or hay fever and the researchers from the University of Porto in Portugal concluded that their best asthma-fighting foods were oranges, apples, tomatoes and grapes.

Adults on the same type of diet, who had asthma, were found to have fewer attacks and flare-ups. However, if they also included nuts in their diet at least three times a week then that produced less wheezing. A likely explanation for this is that nuts contain a lot of magnesium which helps boost your lung power.

AVOID THIS: There was however one substance that the researchers found that would double the risk of children getting asthma and allergic rhinitis – margarine. This finding confirms what an Australian study found over 7 years ago when they first warned that the polyunsaturated fats found in many margarines can double a child’s chances of having asthma.

If you want more information, please visit www.asthma.org.uk

Asthma spikes after thunder

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

Some interesting research has just come in from the University of Georgia Atlanta, and is worth passing on if you know someone with asthma. Apparently hospital emergency room data shows that there is about a 3% increase in asthmas cases coming for treatment the day after a thunderstorm.

The data was collected over the entire 20-county Atlanta region, and was studied initially because asthma is prevalent in the region so that even such a small relative increase could have a significant public health impact in the population.

It is certainly interesting and worth keeping an eye if you are susceptible to asthma attacks, but exactly why thunderstorms might have this effect remains unclear. However, one leading hypothesis is that pollen grains break up by osmotic shock in rainwater, releasing allergens, which are then spread by the gusty winds of the storm.

Asthma risk for young children

March 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Childrens Health

Two new studies on asthma make for interesting reading, particularly if you have young children. At a recent meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology it was reported that nearly 90% of children who wheezed when they had a cold as early as just one year old, went on to be diagnosed with asthma by the time they were six.

Daniel J. Jackson, M.D., of the University of Wisconsin had studied a group of children from birth to age six and his findings were based on this group, he was at pains to point out that as there is no treatment to prevent common cold infections or asthma, but it will be helpful for parents to be aware of the higher risk their for developing asthma and to be alert for the symptoms so they can take early action.

September and October, as well as March and April, are the primary months for such infections and it is suggested that if you have a child in the first year of life who is wheezing in these months then both the parents and the doctor need to keep a close eye on the child during those periods.

Of course this is not the only risk factor, other significant predictors of asthma included having a dog in the house at the child’s birth, other children in the family with asthma, and showing sensitivity to airborne allergens. Also, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science in the USA, the problem of asthma can be made worse if you have mice in the house. Almost 83% of the homes studied were found to have mouse allergens, principally from urine, and one third of those homes were found to have a 50% greater risk of having a family member with asthma.

Again prevention is the best plan, so if you have an asthmatic child or adult it is worth making sure that your home is mouse free to minimise potential allergens. Unfortunately it appears that having a cat is no deterrent as levels were just as high in households with cats as without. What are they doing to earn their daily bowl of Whiskas?

Preventing Childhood Allergies

As any parent will tell you, the rise of allergies amongst children is almost epidemic with asthma being a particular concern. To avoid lengthy testing and treatment prevention has got to be the better option.

There is now evidence from a Spanish study on children from birth to 6 years of age that if their diet has over 40 grams of vegetables daily (about a third of a cup) then they were less likely to suffer with symptoms of childhood asthma.

The study showed that some vegetables were more effective than others and these included cucumber, tomato, aubergine, green beans and courgettes. If you want to really protect children from inherited childhood allergies, the study done in Menorca also showed that if the same children were given small, regular, helpings of omega-3 fish such as mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines or salmon then they were less likely to from genetically inherited childhood allergies.

How do they do that? These vegetables and the oily fish contain high levels of antioxidants and are also anti-inflammatory. This means that they produce a protective and healing effect on the bronchial passageways thus offering some protection from allergies and asthma.