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Hay fever link to adult asthma

Friday September 19th, 2008

Children who suffer from hay fever faced an increased risk of developing asthma as adults, researchers warned today.

This is the finding of a new study based on 849 people in Western Europe. Their hay fever symptoms were measured before the age of six, and they were tested for asthma symptoms when they were 22. By this age, 181 had developed asthma.

Those with persistent wheezing or mild breathing problems in early life were two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half times more likely than other young people to have developed asthma.

The researchers believe that adult asthma has its origins in early childhood. "Hay fever is a powerful predictor of adult-onset asthma," they write in the Lancet.

They conclude: "This large prospective study provides strong evidence for an increased risk of asthma in adults with allergic rhinitis [hay fever], and to a lesser extent non-allergic rhinitis."

Treating hay fever may effectively reduce the risk of adult asthma, they suggest, but more evidence is needed.

Dr Susanne Lau of the Charite University Medicine, Berlin, Germany, agrees. Also writing in the Lancet, she raises the possibility of avoiding asthma by preventing "atopic sensation", perhaps among all children and not just those with hay fever.

"Possible treatments for both asthma and allergic rhinitis could affect the symptoms for each other," she writes. But she adds that more work must be done to find the best way of tackling both conditions.

"Whether therapeutic approaches at early preschool age can affect the diseases is yet to be established," she concludes.

Stern, D. A. et al. Wheezing and bronchial hyper-responsiveness in early childhood as predictors of newly diagnosed asthma in early adulthood: a longitudinal birth-cohort study. The Lancet, Vol. 372, September 20, 2008, pp. 1058-64.

Lau, S. Transition from childhood to adult asthma. The Lancet, Vol. 372, September 20, 2008, pp. 1014-15.

Books on Asthma and Allergy Care

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child & Adolescent Health | Europe

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