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Your Baby

Kid’s Exposure to Dogs May Help Prevent Asthma

1:30

It may sound like the opposite would be true, but a new study suggests that when children are exposed to dogs and other animals early on, they’re less likely to have asthma later in life.

Researchers looked at more than one million Swedish children. They found that those who grew up with dogs in the home were nearly 15 percent less likely to develop asthma than those not exposed to dogs.

This ties in with an earlier study that showed children who grow up on farms also have lower rates of asthma.

The study was led by author Tove Fall, assistant professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a university news release, she noted that "earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes."

Fall said, "Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socioeconomic status."

Study senior author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stressed that the finding is only relates to children who have not yet developed asthma or allergies.

"We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them," she said in the news release.

What about other pets, such as cats, birds or hamsters?  The jury is still out on that one.

"In this study, early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduced asthma risk, and this may or may not include other types of pets that children keep," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The takeaway is that early exposure may reduce the incidence of a later pathological process," he said.

Experts have begin to warn parents that children raised in too sterile an environment are more prone to developing allergies and reactions to common bacteria and pet dander.  A little dirt and dander may be just what the doctor orders now to help prevent allergies and asthma later.

The findings were recently published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/dogs-in-the-home-may-lower-kids-odds-for-asthma-study-finds-704764.html

Daily Dose

Special Series: Allergies

1.30 to read

We've had plenty of questions about allergies this time of year, and with so many already suffering, we decide to put together a series on what you need to know to help your family survive allergy season. 

It is the season for allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages) which are triggered by tree pollens and grasses as spring blows in.  Allergy symptoms affect about 1:5 people and the first symptoms often begin in childhood. Children typically develop symptoms of allergic rhinitis between the ages of 3–4 years. Many of these children might have shown symptoms of eczema (atopic dermatitis) and asthma at even younger ages. If one parent has allergies, there is about a 40-50% chance that their child may also be allergic and if two allergic persons marry (guess you should ask about that while dating), then there is a 70-80% chance that their children will also be allergic. 

It also seems that early exposure to cigarette smoke, cat dander and house dust mites may promote other allergic symptoms later in life. (Another great reason not to smoke if you have children) The most common symptoms of an allergy are complaints of an itchy nose, watery and red eyes, sneezing, runny nose (typically clear), post nasal drip and cough.  These allergic symptoms are brought on by the release of histamines in the body after exposure to the allergen, such as inhaled pollens.  

While allergic symptoms have been labeled, “hay fever” this is an inappropriate term as allergies do not cause a fever and the child is not necessarily allergic to hay. There are also different pollens responsible for allergic symptoms at different times of the year. Children that develop seasonal allergies have several characteristic physical findings. They may have allergic “shiners” which are darkened areas beneath the lower eyelid from swelling, they also often have a crease across their nasal bridge (termed the allergic salute) which occurs due to constant rubbing of the nose. You can often see the child rub their little watery eyes while you are examining them and they often have a clear, watery nasal discharge.  Some of these allergic children will also have a cough and may even be wheezing.  They often look rather uncomfortable rather than sick as with a cold. 

There are many different treatment options for controlling allergic rhinitis.  The first is to control the environment as much as possible by closing windows and turning on the AC in order that the airborne allergens do not blow into the house. After your child has been playing outdoors have them come in and shower to remove the pollens from their hair and body (not a favorite pastime for little boys). You can also watch the pollen count for your area and limit a child’s time outdoors on especially high pollen count days. Medical treatment of allergic rhinitis coming up in part 2 of our special series. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Control Indoor Allergens

2.00 to read

Fall is the perfect time of year to open the windows and air out the house! Sounds like a great idea, however, this can cause some problems for fall allergy sufferers in your home. It can start stir up some pesky allergens that may bother your kids. So, how about a few tips to keep these allergens at bay.

There are an array of things that can trigger an allergy attack in your home including dust mites and mold.

Working fulltime and raising three boys, I know how hard it is for busy families to find time to clean (my least favorite thing to do). But spring is the best time to get a jump on controlling indoor allergies.

Start with washing all bedding at least once a week.  Throw your linens in water at least 130 degrees.  Place dust mite covers on mattresses and pillows.  While changing sheets, vacuum the mattress as well.

Carpeting harbors plenty of items, so if there is someone very allergic, consider replacing carpets with hard surfaces such as hardwood or tile. By doing so, this can eliminate as much as 90% of dust mites.  If you can’t live without carpet, think about buying low pile not shag.

Get rid of any mold!  Mold is caused by moisture and can hide in your kitchen, bathroom and basement.  Keep things as dry as possible to avoid any mold build up.

One thing many people miss? Turn on the ventilating fan or open a window in the bathroom.  Try to keep humidity below 50%.  Too much moisture is a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

I know how much families love their pets (we love our yellow lab Maggie and treat her like a member of the family).  But Maggie and your pet can track pollen into your home from the outside.  Also, many children can be allergic to pet dander.  Here’s a trick: wipe your pet down with a dryer sheet! It will pull the dander and any loose pollen off your pet.

Spring and fall cleaning means de-cluttering, so go ahead and box up those knickknacks.  They are very decorative but are a magnet for dust.

And, check your air filters.  Every 1st of the month, clean or replace your air conditioner, furnace or dehumidifier filter.  It will inhibit dusty air from circulating throughout your home.

Try these tips and let me know how it works out for your family.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Your Baby

Special Baby Formulas Don’t Prevent Asthma, Allergies

2:00

Parents that have a baby at risk or allergies, asthma or type-1 Diabetes sometimes turn to hydrolyzed milk formulas in hopes of lowering their infant’s risk of developing these problems.

A new review of the data on hydrolyzed formulas finds that there is no evidence that they actually protect children from these types of autoimmune disorders.

"We found no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula," concluded a team led by Robert Boyle of Imperial College London in England.

"Our findings conflict with current international guidelines, in which hydrolyzed formula is widely recommended for young formula-fed infants with a family history of allergic disease," the study authors added.

In the study, Boyle's team looked at data from 37 studies that together included more than 19,000 participants and were conducted between 1946 and 2015.

The investigators found that infants who received hydrolyzed cow's milk formula did not have a lower risk of asthma, allergies (such as eczema, hay fever, food allergies) or type 1 diabetes compared to those who received human breast milk or a standard cow's milk formula.

The researchers also found no evidence to support an FDA-approved claim that a partially hydrolyzed formula could reduce the risk of the skin disorder eczema, or another conclusion that hydrolyzed formula could prevent an allergy to cow's milk.

Other experts in the United States said that the finding casts doubt on the usefulness of these kinds of specialized products.

"Allergies and autoimmune diseases [such as asthma, and type 1 diabetes] are on the rise and it would be nice if we did have a clear route to preventing them," said Dr. Ron Marino, associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Unfortunately, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration support [for hydrolyzed formula], the data are not compelling," he said.

Dr. Punita Ponda is assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She stressed that when it comes to infant feeding, breast milk is by far the healthiest option.

However, "current mainstream guidelines for infant formula do recommend that parents consider using hypoallergenic formula if a close family member -- like an older brother or sister -- has a food allergy," she said. That was based on prior studies supporting some kind of protective effect, Ponda said.

Protein hydrolysate formulas were first introduced in the 1940s for babies who could not tolerate the milk protein in cow’s milk.

Protein hydrolyzed formulas are formulas composed of proteins that are partially broken down or “hydrolyzed.” They are also called hydrolysates.

There are two broad categories of protein hydrolysates:

•       Partially hydrolyzed formulas (pHF)

•       Extensively hydrolyzed formulas (eHF)

Both partially and extensively hydrolyzed protein formulas are based on casein or whey, which are proteins found in milk.  

Hydrolyzed formulas have had the protein chains broken down into shorter and more easy-to -digest chains. The more extensively hydrolyzed the formula, the fewer potentially allergenic compounds remain.

Hydrolyzed formulas are also more expensive than regular cow’s milk formulas and often harder to find.

The researchers review was published March 08, 2016 in the BMJ.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160308/special-infant-formulas-dont-shield-against-asthma-allergies-study

Victoria Groce, http://foodallergies.about.com/od/adultfoodallergies/p/hypoallergenic.htm

 

Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking and Nail Biting Linked to Fewer Allergies

1:30

An interesting new study out of New Zealand suggests that young children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails may be at a lower risk for developing allergies.

The study included data from 1000 children born in New Zealand in 1972 or 1973, and spanned three decades.

While the results of the study suggests these habits may lower children’s risks of developing allergies, researchers noted that they are not recommending that kids take up these habits, only that the habits may play a role protecting them against allergies into adulthood.

 "Many parents discourage these habits, and we do not have enough evidence to [advise they] change this," said Dr. Robert Hancox, an associate professor of respiratory epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "We certainly don't recommend encouraging nail-biting or thumb-sucking, but perhaps if a child has one of these habits and [it] is difficult [for them] to stop, there is some consolation in the knowledge that it might reduce their risk of allergies.”

The researchers asked the parents of the children participating in the study about their kids’ thumb-sucking habits and nail-biting habits four times: when the kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Researchers also tested the children for allergies using a skin-prick test when they were 13, and then followed up with the kids again when they were 32.

It turned out that 38 percent of the children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails had at least one allergy, whereas among kids who did not have these habits, 49 percent had at least one allergy.

Moreover, the link between these childhood habits and a lower risk of allergies was still present among the study participants when they were 32 years old. The link persisted even when the researchers took into account potentially confounding factors that may also affect a person's risk of allergies, such as whether their parents had allergies, whether they owned pets, whether they were breast-fed as infants and whether their parents smoked.

By the time the children were 13 years old, researchers found that the ones who both sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were even less likely to have allergies compared with children who had just one of the two habits. However, by the time they were 32, this association was no longer found.

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

The results of this study are inline with another study published in 2013, which found that children whose mothers sucked their kids’ pacifiers clean had a lower risk of developing allergies.

"Although the mechanism and age of exposure [to pathogens] are different, both studies suggest that the immune response and risk of allergies may be influenced by exposure to oral bacteria or other microbes," the researchers wrote in the new study.

The new findings also lend support the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which holds that environments that have too little dirt and germs may make children more susceptible to certain conditions, including allergies. It seems that "exposure to microbial organisms influences our immune system and makes us less likely to develop allergies," Hancox told Live Science.

Kids that suck their thumbs or bite their nails, receive mixed reactions from adults. Most adults will encourage kids to stop biting their nails, while it’s probably 50/50 on the thumb sucking. Either way, it appears that oral bacteria may play a role in lowering the risks of developing allergies in kids.

Story source: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, http://www.livescience.com/55340-children-thumb-sucking-nail-biting-allergy-risk.html

 

Daily Dose

Pink Eye

1:30 to read

This is another time of the year that I see a lot “pink eye”.  Any time the eye is pink..you have “pink eye”, which mothers seem to be quite confused by!!   They often comment…”this is pink eye?” , to which I respond, “well, the child’s eye (conjunctiva) is pink (red), so yes…this is pink eye”.  The term is just a description of the eye….but then you need to determine why the eye is “pink”.

 

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common causes of a pink eye….and there are many different types of conjunctivitis.  As with any condition the history is really important in helping to determine why a child’s eye is inflamed.  Several of the most common causes of the “pink eye” are bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

 

Bacterial conjunctivitis often shows up in younger children and they have lots of matting of the eye lids and lashes and a mucopurulent discharge (gooey eyes). Some moms say that the “goo of gunk” comes as quickly as they can wipe it.  The child often has a lot of tearing and will rub the eyes as they feel that something is in their eye and it is irritated.  Bacterial conjunctivitis will typically resolve in 8 -10 days on its own, but antibiotic eye drops are used to shorten the course  of the pink eye and also reduce the contagiousness.  It seems as if every child in a day care class room will get conjunctivitis as they constantly rub their eyes and touch toys!!  Hand washing helps….but you can’t wash a child’s hands every time they touch their eyes.

 

Viral conjunctivitis usually occurs in combination of with systemic viral illness. Sore throat, fever and bright red eye are often seen in older children and teens and is due to adenovirus.  While the eye is red, the discharge is typically watery and matting is much less common. These patients are contagious for up to 12 days so it is important to practice good eye/hand hygiene, especially in the household. Artificial tears may help the feeling of eye irritation, but antibacterial eye drops rarely help except in cases of a secondary infection.  I get many phone calls from parents saying, “we tried prescription eye drops and they are not working”. I make sure to tell my older patients to take out their contacts and wear glasses for 7-10 days.

 

At this time of year I am also seeing a lot of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.  These children have intensely itchy and watery eyes, as well as swelling of the eyelids and area surrounding the eyes. They look like they have been crying for days as they are so swollen and miserable. Many also have a very watery nasal discharge. They do not have fever. Using over the counter medications for allergy control, such as nasal steroids and anti-histamines will help some of the allergic symptoms. There are also over the counter eye drops (Zaditor, Patanol) that help when used daily.  During the worst of the season I make sure that the child has daily hair wash and eyelash and eyebrow wash with dilute soapy water to make sure the pollen is removed after they have been playing outside. It is nearly impossible to keep a child indoors for the 6 or more weeks of allergy season!

 

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Spring Allergies

Control Spring Allergies

Daily Dose

Special Series: Food Allergies

2.00 to read

We continue our special series on allergies. This time we look at food allergies and how they are diagnosed.We continue our series on allergies and this time we shift the focus on food allergies. This topic was top of mind for a mom who sent us an email question via our free iPhone app. She wrote “could my 9 year old daughter be allergic to strawberries as she gets a stomach ache and sometimes vomits after she eats them?  She has not had problems eating strawberries before." This is very interesting because I have been reading & reviewing several articles on food allergies and their diagnosis.

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One was in JAMA (I saved the May  2010 issue for research) and another was in the March issue of Consultant for Pediatricians. Both of these articles emphasized that there continues to be a great deal of confusion and lack of uniformity for diagnosing food allergies. Food allergy is also not uniformly defined, but according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), it is an “adverse immune response that occurs on exposure to a given food and is distinct from other adverse responses to food such as food intolerance.”  Statistics show that somewhere between 1%-2% of the population may have food allergies.  It is also unclear if food allergies are on the rise, as data on this is conflicting. With all of that being said, it sounds more like this child has developed an intolerance to strawberries rather than an allergic response.  It would be important to get more history such as what else she has eaten with the strawberries when this occurs, if the symptoms are always the same and are there any other problems associated with the ingestion. Specifically, does she complain of hives, itching, swelling of her tongue, lips or difficulty breathing? Does she have problems with any other foods? I also wonder if she has the same symptoms if she picks fresh strawberries or if they are from the store or if they are frozen. In other words, like so many things in medicine a good history is probably the most important part of this “strawberry story”. If she continues to have problems and her symptoms, this sounds more like intolerance than a true allergic reaction she can just avoid the strawberries (not much fun, especially in the summer). She might also check with her pediatrician about doing a blood test for IgE antibodies to strawberries.  A food intolerance would not have an increase in IgE antibodies as it is not an allergic reaction.  If confusion persists she could be referred to a pediatric allergist for further evaluation and even an oral food challenge. There continues to be a great many studies surrounding the etiology of food allergies, and I will keep you posted as new information is presented. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. What do you think?  Send your question or comment to me!

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Daily Dose

Allergy Nasal Sprays

1:30 to read

Since we are in the throes of allergy season (even though there was a recent late snow event in the midwest and northeast) I thought I would provide some additional information on steroid nasal sprays.  In fact, the climate changes that we are seeing are predicted to increase the length of pollinating seasons and therefore increase the amount of pollen produced, which will only make those with allergies (and children with developing allergies) even more miserable with symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, throat clearing and itchy eyes.  

Although I recently discussed the use of non sedating and sedating anti-histamines for intermittent allergy symptoms, the use of intranasal steroids have been found to be far more effective in controlling allergy symptoms.  The first thing to remember is that unlike an antihistamine, intranasal steroids require several days of consistent use before you will see any real change in allergy symptoms (I must repeat that line 10 times a day, especially to my teenage patients who want instant gratification!).  For anyone who knows the season for their allergies (depending on the pollen one is sensitive to), I recommend starting the intranasal steroid spray 1-2 weeks before their symptoms typically begin. (Which means if you are allergic to tree pollens - you should have already started by now). Using the nasal spray daily and continuing throughout the allergy season will provide the best results.  Watching the pollen counts in your area will be important to time the use of intranasal steroids.

Although some children seem to be more sensitive about using a intranasal steroid spray, it is well tolerated by most with few side effects.  Prescription intranasal steroid sprays have been approved for use in children as young as 2 years and the over the counter sprays for children 4 years and older.  The most commonly reported side effects are nasal irritation, burning and bloody noses.  I always try to show my patients how to use the spray properly and to “aim” the spray towards the outer aspect of the inside of the nostril rather than towards the septum (middle) which may help reduce irritation and bloody noses. By spraying towards the outer aspect you also maximize the amount of area that is covered by the spray.  Everyone seems to have their “favorite” intranasal steroid as some are an aqueous spray and others are an aerosolized puff….but in many cases the product choice may be based on the age of the patient, prescription vs OTC, insurance coverage and cost.  Although there are many to choose from there have been no head to head studies with these medications and their efficacy is generally thought to be comparable….but discuss your choices with your own pediatrician.

Lastly, there was a study done in 2014 published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which measured growth rates in children between 5 and 8 years of age who were treated with an intranasal steroid (specifically fluticasone furcate - Veramyst ) as compared to a placebo. The study did show a significant improvement in nasal allergy symptom scores, but there was a 0.27 cm (0.65 inch ) reduction in growth rate over the course of the year as compared to placebo.  Due to this study, I use the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time in younger patients, and explain the reasoning to their parents.  Again, you can read the study and discuss this with your pediatrician before beginning intranasal steroids.   

Just make sure you use the intranasal spray consistently during the height of allergy season…I tell my own family, it doesn’t work as well if it sits on the counter for a few days between use!

 

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Why kids need to wear life jackets while boating.

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