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Early exposure to indoor allergens might help reduce asthma risk among children, study says

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Washington – Infants exposed to high doses of indoor pet or pest allergens may have a lower risk of developing asthma by the time they are in grade school, new research suggests.

Using the Urban Environment and Childhood Asthma study, researchers gathered data on 442 children at 7 years old. Of those children, 130 (29 percent) had asthma. The data showed that children exposed to higher concentrations of cat, cockroach and mouse allergens – found in dust samples from their homes – in their first three years of life had a lower risk of developing asthma, as did children who were exposed to high levels of those allergens in addition to dog allergens, at 3 months old.

The researchers also found that exposure to certain bacteria might lower the risk of developing childhood asthma. They cautioned, however, that more work is needed before drawing significant conclusions.

“Our observations imply that exposure to a broad variety of indoor allergens, bacteria and bacterial products early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma,” Dr. James E. Gern, URECA principal investigator and University of Wisconsin professor, said in a Sept. 19 press release. “Additional research may help us identify specific targets for asthma prevention strategies.”

The URECA study also confirmed links between childhood asthma and factors such as prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and maternal stress and depression, according to the release.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was published Sept. 19 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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