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Can Man’s Best Friend Chase Away Eczema, Asthma?

Parents of children struggling with eczema or asthma might think that having a dog would only make it harder to control their child’s condition.

But two new studies suggest man’s furry best friend might actually provide some protection against allergic diseases.

The first study contends that having a dog in the house before you’re even born may help keep eczema at bay at least until your toddler years. The skin disorder is marked by dry, extremely itchy patches.

“Eczema is usually the first manifestation of [allergic disease] and eczema can predict the development of other [allergic diseases] as kids grow,” said study author Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, an allergy and immunology fellow at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The researchers analyzed 782 mother-child pairs and collected data on prenatal exposure to dogs, which included days where a dog spent at least one hour inside the home.

When the investigators compared kids with prenatal dog exposure to those without, the risk of eczema was reduced in children of dog households by about half at age 2. The effect appeared to diminish by age 10, but Cheema said the researchers are still gathering data and suggested that finding might eventually change.

The second study looked at living with dogs and the odds of asthma symptoms linked to substances found on the dog, such as bacteria, or the dog’s own allergens. This study included 188 children from Baltimore with the breathing and wheezing disorder. Ninety-two percent were black, and their average age was 10.

Researchers from this study found that the non-allergen substances on the dogs appeared to reduce the need for an asthma inhaler and reduced nighttime symptoms of asthma. On the flip side, exposure to allergen-inducing proteins from dogs seemed to up the odds of inhaler use and nighttime symptoms.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” said study author Dr. Po-Yang Tsou, from Johns Hopkins University.

“There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure. However, dog allergen exposure remains a major concern for kids who are allergic to dogs,” Tsou said in a statement.

Dr. Craig Osleeb is a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Northern Westchester Medical Center in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He reviewed both studies and said the research left a lot of questions unanswered.

Osleeb noted that the kids with higher exposure to the dog allergen proteins were the ones that tended to have more symptoms. He said isolating those proteins that caused worse symptoms might be a way to help families with asthmatic children find dogs that may help asthma rather than make it worse, though it’s too soon to tell yet.

Tsou’s study found no protective effect from exposure to cats. The research also didn’t find a benefit from exposure to other common allergens such as dust mites or cockroaches.

Cheema said it’s too soon to say whether or not people should try to increase exposure to dogs to keep allergic diseases at bay.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone to go get a dog. It can be a dangerous thing if people have severe allergies and asthma,” she noted.

But for parents who already have a dog in the home, “it’s definitely fair to say that this and other research has shown that a dog may be protective,” she added.

Cheema said the current theory is that having a dog may expose children to substances that affect their microbiome — the natural mix of bacteria found in the gut.

Both studies were to be presented Friday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting, in Boston. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

By Serena Gordon    HealthDay Reporter    FRIDAY, Oct. 27, 2017
SOURCES: Gagandeep Cheema, M.D., allergy and immunology fellow, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit; Craig Osleeb, M.D., pediatric allergist and immunologist, Northern Westchester Medical Center, Mount Kisco, N.Y.; Oct. 27, 2017, presentation, American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology meeting, Boston
source: www.webmd.com    WebMD News from HealthDay
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Experts Now Recommend Introducing Peanuts To Babies At High Risk Of Allergies

Withholding the nuts may actually contribute 
to the deadly allergy, a national panel concludes.

For millions of children who have peanut allergies, mealtimes can be deadly. And for years, doctors have advised parents to keep peanut products away from children thought to be at high risk.

But new guidelines issued Thursday state that infants should be introduced to peanut products as early as 4 months old if they appear to be at high risk of developing food allergies.

A panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says that introducing peanuts early in life can actually help prevent the development of peanut allergies.

The new recommendations encourage parents to prevent food allergies by following a schedule of early introduction of certain allergenic foods, explained Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and a member of the NIAID panel. The NIAID’s 2010 guidelines had stated only that that there was no sufficient data to support the withholding of allergenic foods in order to prevent allergies.

“The big difference with these guidelines is that they’re not saying there is no reason not to give it. It’s now saying give it,” said Sampson. “So this is a proactive statement, as opposed to a more passive [approach].”

Severe peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, in which the throat swells, constricting breathing. People with less severe peanut allergies can experience wheezing, shortness of breath, digestive problems, skin rashes or hives in the mouth and throat.

How to introduce peanut products to babies

If a baby has severe eczema, an egg allergy or both, these conditions increase the risk of a peanut allergy. For these high-risk infants, peanut product introduction should take place from 4 to 6 months of age — not with whole peanuts, which can be a choking hazard, but perhaps with diluted peanut butter.

Babies with mild to moderate eczema but no egg allergy should start being introduced to peanut products at 6 months if this fits in with the family’s normal diet. In other words, parents shouldn’t feel compelled to introduce peanuts at this age.

The guidelines state that for both of these high-risk scenarios, parents should see if babies are developmentally ready to eat solid foods by introducing something else first. Then, when babies show confidence in eating solid foods, parents should check with the pediatrician first before introducing a peanut food. A pediatrician may suggest testing for peanut allergies before the first introduction or may have specific instructions for the introduction. A baby’s first taste of peanut can even take place at the doctor’s office.

If the baby shows no sign of eczema or egg allergy and thus appears to be at no heightened risk of developing a peanut allergy, peanut products should be incorporated into their diet in keeping with the family’s normal dietary preferences, in an age-appropriate way.

baby
Introducing babies as young as 4 months to peanut products
could prevent development of peanut allergies.

Compelling data prompted the change

The recommendations are based on an NIAID-funded, five-year clinical trial called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy, or LEAP. The trial randomly divided more than 600 infants into two groups: a control group that avoided eating peanut products until they were 5 years old and an experimental group that was introduced to peanut foods early in life on a regular basis. Scientists found that eating peanuts early in life was safe and reduced the risk of developing a peanut allergy by 81 percent compared with the control group.

“The data was so compelling on the preventive effect of early introduction that it was felt that the guidelines needed to be revised,” said Sampson of the LEAP study results.

Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.

To reduce the number of people with peanut allergies, Dr. Sujan Patel, an allergist immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, has been advising parents to introduce allergenic foods early to their children for several years now. He says he is glad that the guidelines have caught up with the practice, common among immunologists.

Allergies to peanuts and other foods could have risen because parents were introducing certain foods to their children later, because of official guidance or perhaps out of fear of triggering a life-threatening allergic reaction, Patel explained. But the results of the LEAP study, published in 2015, show that this approach may actually be setting the stage for severe food allergies in the future.

“We’re trying to combat the development of peanut allergy with early introduction, based on these studies,” said Patel, who was not involved in the creation of the new guidelines. “With the overall increase of prevalence of food allergies, I feel that a lot of parents are now nervous to introduce highly allergenic foods at a young age because they feel like the child might be in danger.”

Other factors that may have contributed to the rise in food allergies include outdated advice from family doctors and pediatricians, or perhaps a reluctance to introduce any solid food at all before 6 months, in favor of exclusive breastfeeding.

Patel and Sampson hope that the new recommendations will stem the increase of peanut allergies in children.

“We’re looking to reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy among the population,” said Patel.

For instructions on how to introduce peanut products to your child, check out this video produced by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

 01/05/2017       Anna Almendrala        Senior Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post


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Eczema’s Effects More Than Skin Deep

Itchy skin condition also linked to a number of other ills, skin specialist says

People dealing with the itchy skin condition known as eczema may have other medical conditions to cope with as well, including heart disease, a dermatologist says.

Eczema, which causes dry, red patches of skin and intense itchiness, affects an estimated one-quarter of children in the United States. And, as many as seven million adults also have eczema, Dr. Jonathan Silverberg said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.

“Although it affects the skin, eczema is not just skin-deep. This disease can have a serious impact on patients’ quality of life and overall health, both physically and mentally,” Silverberg said.

He’s assistant professor in dermatology, medical social sciences and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

skin-cancer-doctor-seeing-patients

Eczema has been linked to an increased risk of health conditions such as asthma, hay fever, food allergy, obesity and heart disease, Silverberg said.

The reasons for this are unclear. But, the connection may be eczema-related inflammation affecting the entire body, he said. Or, the negative effects of eczema symptoms on sleep and health habits may play a role, he added.

People with eczema also have a higher risk of skin and other infections. And, the frequent intense itching of eczema and its effect on the skin’s appearance may contribute to a greater risk of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, Silverberg said.

Controlling flare-ups of eczema symptoms may help reduce the risk of problems such as sleep disturbance, but heart disease and other conditions may develop due to eczema’s long-term effects on the body, Silverberg said.

That’s why it’s important for treatment to not only improve symptoms in the short-term, but also to manage eczema for the long-term, he said.

By Robert Preidt     HealthDay Reporter     FRIDAY, July 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) 
SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, July 28, 2016