Monday, August 15, 2011

'Late' asthma research unearths potential new treatment

Scientists have stumbled on a potential new treatment for delayed asthma attacks which can occur several hours after exposure to allergens, a study shows.

A team from Imperial College London found that blocking sensory nerve functions stopped a "late asthmatic response" in mice and rats.

Around half of people with asthma experience delayed symptoms.

The charity Asthma UK says the research could help the understanding of asthma.

Writing in the journal Thorax, researchers say the late asthmatic response happens because the allergen triggers sensory nerves in the airways.

These nerves then set off a chain reaction which causes the release of neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which causes the airways to narrow.

If these findings translate to humans, it will mean that drugs called anticholinergics - which block acetylcholine - could be used to treat asthma patients who suffer from delayed attacks.
These attacks can often happen at night, three to eight hours after the sufferer comes into contact with grass pollen or house-dust mites, for example.

A typical early asthmatic response occurs within an hour of exposure to allergens.

At present, steroids are the main treatments for asthma but they are not effective for all patients.
Professor Maria Belvisi, lead researcher from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said they realised the importance of sensory nerves in triggering symptoms by chance.

"We wanted to do the research on anaesthetised rats, but we couldn't because the late response had been blocked by anaesthetising them.

"We stumbled upon it. Now we want to work out how allergens trigger these nerves, because we don't know the exact connections."

The data produced by the study suggests that anti-cholinergic therapy may be effective in patients that observe a late phase response to allergen.

Separate recent clinical studies also showed that an anti-cholinergic improved symptoms and lung function in asthma patients.

Charity Asthma UK says 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma and it can affect people at any age.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at the charity, said: "This research seeks to understand the causes of chronic asthma symptoms and may pave the way for identifying new treatments for people with asthma in the future."

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Source: BBC

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stress and Asthma

Stress is a common asthma trigger. An asthma trigger is anything that brings on asthma symptoms. When you have stress and asthma, you might feel short of breath, anxious, and even panicked. Stress may cause your asthma symptoms to worsen and cause you to feel frightened.
When stress levels start to creep upward -- whether it's over bills, work, or your kids' jam-packed calendar -- asthma symptoms can kick into overdrive. As the wheezing and coughing gets worse, your health becomes one more reason to worry. Asthma, stress, and anxiety make for a vicious circle, and one that can spiral downward quickly.


When Asthma Treatment Triggers More Anxiety

With persistent asthma, you have symptoms more than once a week, but not constantly. Treating persistent asthma requires long-term maintenance therapy, such as an inhaled steroid, plus rescue therapy when something triggers symptoms. And when your symptoms are out of control (in the red zone, a severe asthma attack), prednisone for asthma might be necessary for a few days. The problem is that prednisone often causes mood swings as a side effect, adding fuel to the anxiety fire.
Remember, prednisone is a short-term treatment for most people with asthma. After you finish taking the "burst" of oral steroids, your mood will return to normal. Inhaled steroids don't cause permanent mood changes.
If your long-term asthma medication doesn't work well, and wheezing and chest tightness occur too often, a vicious circle can begin where anxiety worsens asthma, and asthma worsens anxiety. That's when you need to talk to your doctor about your symptoms, triggers, and stress. Also discuss other asthma treatment options that can get your asthma under control again, so you can prevent symptoms of asthma.

Antihistamines or Decongestants? Getting Allergy Relief

While there is no quick fix for your runny or congested nose, antihistamines and decongestants continue to be some of the most widely used medicines for allergy relief.

But how do you know if an antihistamine or a decongestant will give you allergy relief? Who should use these allergy relief medicines -- and who should avoid them?

Why are antihistamines used for allergy relief?

Allergies occur when the body’s immune cells release a chemical called histamine in response to contact with an allergen. Histamine is one of the chemicals that causes swelling of the membranes in the nose and increases mucus.

When histamine is released during an allergic reaction, you may have symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, swollen nasal passages, weepy eyes, and nasal stuffiness.

While antihistamines cannot cure your allergy symptoms, they do block the effect of histamine and give you some allergy relief.  Antihistamines help relieve such miserable symptoms as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge. They may also help relieve nasal congestion, and skin and eye symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe short-acting antihistamines, which are taken every four to six hours. There are also timed-release antihistamines that you can take every 12 or 24 hours.

Bee Pollen Benefits and Side Effects

For years, herbalists have touted bee pollen as an exceptionally nutritious food. They've even claimed it is a cure for certain health problems. Yet after years of research, scientists still cannot confirm that bee pollen has any health benefits.


What Is Bee Pollen?

Bee pollen contains vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids, and protein. It comes from the pollen that collects on the bodies of bees. Bee pollen may also include bee saliva.

It's important to avoid confusing bee pollen with natural honey, honeycomb, bee venom, or royal jelly. These products do not contain bee pollen.


How Is Bee Pollen Used?

Bee pollen is available at many health food stores. You may find bee pollen in other natural dietary supplements as well as in skin softening products used for baby's diaper rash or eczema.

You may also hear recommendations for using bee pollen for alcoholism, asthma, allergies, health maintenance, or stomach problems. But before you take any natural product for a health condition, check with your doctor.

Bee pollen is also recommended by some herbalists to enhance athletic performance, reduce side effects of chemotherapy, and improve allergies and asthma.

At this point, medical research has not shown that bee pollen is effective for any of these health concerns.


Is Bee Pollen Safe?

Bee pollen appears to be safe, at least when taken for a short term. But if you have pollen allergies, you may get more than you bargained for. Bee pollen can cause a serious allergic reaction -- including shortness of breath, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis.

Bee pollen is not safe for pregnant women. A woman should also avoid using bee pollen if she is breastfeeding

Asthma May Raise Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease

Asthma may increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, shows new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Francisco.

The common denominator between these conditions appears to be inflammation, according to researchers led by Young J. Juhn, MD, MPH, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Juhn and colleagues followed 2,392 people with asthma and 4,784 people without asthma from 1964 to 1983. People with asthma were at higher risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, but not inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis, the study showed.

Specifically, the diabetes rate in people without asthma was 104 per 100,000 people compared to 138.4 per 100,000 people among those with asthma. For heart disease, the rate in people without asthma was 134 per 100,000 people vs. 188.6 per 100,000 among those participants with asthma.

“While it’s important for clinicians to be aware of the increased risks of coronary artery disease and diabetes in asthmatics, these findings should be interpreted cautiously given the preliminary nature,” Juhn says in a news release. “Given the significant proportion of people affected by asthma, we need to continue to carefully monitor the potential impact of asthma epidemiology on the epidemiology of other chronic diseases.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Donkey milk can help children with milk allergies

In the hills outside Bologna in northern Italy a slightly peculiar farm has become the centre of a health experiment that harks back to the practices of ancient Greece and Rome.

The farm is home to 700 donkeys and produces donkey milk, a product that is creating a lot of interest among health professionals.

Donkey milk is proving to be a viable alternative for young children and infants in Italy who suffer from allergies to cows' milk.

More than 50% of what the farm produces is sold directly to paediatric units in the region.

Dr Giovanna Monti, a paediatrician at the head of the allergy unit at Turin's St Anna hospital, has been studying the effects of donkey milk on babies and children since 2004.

"We use this milk mostly for children who are allergic to certain proteins in cows' milk," she told the BBC World Service's Health Check programme. "These proteins are often also present in formulated milk too."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is Facebook an asthma trigger?


A young man suffered asthma attacks that were trigged by logging on to Facebook, say doctors. Medical journal The Lancet features a report about a teenager who had repeated asthma attacks brought on by using the popular social networking website.

The 18 year old was feeling down after his girlfriend broke up with him and deleted him from Facebook. By setting up a profile under a pseudonym, the man succeeded in 're-friending' her, but the act of looking at her profile seemed to bring on shortness of breath. These symptoms occurred every time he logged on to the site.

The five doctors, headed by Dr Gennaro D'Amato from Italy, say: 'The (man's) mother was advised to ask him to measure his peak flow before and after internet login and, indeed, 'post-Facebook' values were reduced, with a variability of more than 20%. In collaboration with a psychiatrist, the patient agreed to no longer log in to Facebook and the asthma attacks stopped.'

The doctors say that other possible factors for the symptoms were excluded with a thorough history and physical examination, and so say that the hyperventilation he experienced was due to seeing his ex-girlfriend's profile.

The doctors conclude: 'This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals. Considering the high prevalence of asthma, especially among young people, we suggest that this type of trigger be considered in the assessment of asthma exacerbations.'

Cher Piddock, Lead Asthma Nurse at Asthma UK says: 'Stress is known to trigger asthma symptoms with nearly 70% of people with asthma telling us it affects them. Other stress-inducing situations which can act as a trigger include depression, financial problems, bereavement and extreme work-related stress.

'Facebook or other social networking sites can sometimes lead to stressful emotional situations which may also trigger asthma symptoms. Monitoring your condition and taking your medicine regularly should help to keep asthma in good control.

'Talk to your doctor or asthma nurse if you are going through a difficult time and it is affecting your asthma, or call our confidential Asthma UK Adviceline on 0800 121 62 44.'

Paracetamol linked to asthma in new report

The use of paracetamol for infants and young children has been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma and allergies, according to a new report.

This follows a number of other studies highlighting the same link, but scientists and doctors agree that we are still far from knowing whether paracetamol causes asthma or other allergic conditions. They are confident that the benefits of paracetamol currently outweigh any potential risks.

The New Zealand-based research team found that children given paracetamol before the age of 15 months (90% of children) were more than three times as likely to be sensitised to allergens. Children given paracetamol aged five to six years were more likely to experience wheezing and asthma, however by this age the increased risk of allergies had disappeared.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy and is based on the New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study, which investigated use of paracetamol for 505 infants and 914 five and six-year-olds.

The researchers highlight that their results do not prove that paracetamol causes asthma - it is possible that children given the medicine earlier are those who are naturally more prone to infections and to asthma and allergies.

Julian Crane, Professor at Otago University in Wellington and author of the report was wary of drawing any strong conclusions. He said: 'The problem is that paracetamol is given quite liberally to young children.

'There's a lot of evidence suggesting that something is going on here. It's not completely clear-cut, that's the problem.'

Paracetamol, found in Calpol and other medicines, is by far the most popular treatment for pain and fever for children, after aspirin use dropped following a link to a potentially fatal condition called Reye's Syndrome.

'We need clinical trials to see whether these associations are causal or not, and to clarify the use of this common medication', said Professor Crane.

The Professor said that in the absence of other options and studies establishing a firm causal link, paracetamol should still be used for now.

'If I had a child with a fever, I'd give them paracetamol'

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK says: ‘Several studies from around the world have suggested there may be a link between giving children paracetamol and an increase in their risk of asthma and other allergic conditions. However, they have not established that paracetamol causes asthma.
'We know that paracetamol is a safe and effective treatment for pain and fever if given according to the manufacturer’s directions and at this stage we believe the benefits of using paracetamol far outweigh the potential risks.’