For the first time, food allergy -- especially to peanuts -- has been shown to be a major cause of life-threatening asthma in children.
Asthma attacks are the most common reason for children to be hospitalized, say Dr. Graham Roberts from St. Mary's Hospital in London and a team of experts. Despite great strides in treatment, death due to childhood asthma has not dropped. Roughly 50 children in the U.K. and more than 200 in the U.S die each year from asthma. Dr. Roberts' team studied 19 children who required emergency ventilator treatment for a life-threatening asthma attack, matching each patient to two other patients treated for a non-life-threatening asthma attack.
In the medical publication the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, they report that 53 percent of children with a life-threatening asthma attack were food allergic compared with only 10 percent of those who had asthma but did not require ventilation. Of those with known food allergy, most appeared to be to peanuts or other nuts.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Hugh A. Sampson of Mount Sinai in New York said "perhaps some of the life-threatening asthma that we are seeing may in fact be related to food allergic reactions and have been misdiagnosed only as asthma." He added, "This is particularly relevant to the inner-city population of the U.S.," which has a lot of illness due to asthma. "Really, at this point in time we have very little information about food allergy in this population."
Dr. Sampson hopes this paper "stimulates an awareness of the importance of food allergy" in connection with severe life-threatening asthma.