Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Avoiding Cats, Dust Doesn't Prevent Asthma

Early-Life Exposure to Allergy Triggers Decreases Allergies, Asthma, Study Shows
WebMD Health News

Sept. 29, 2004 -- Allergies are often closely linked to asthma, a condition that has been rapidly rising in recent years. But a new study shows that taking steps to rid your home of allergy triggers does little to help prevent asthma.

A new study from the National Heart and Lung Institute of the U.K. shows that reduced exposure to household allergy triggers like cat dander and dust mites does not protect against the development of childhood asthma and respiratory allergies. Kids exposed to more allergens actually had a lower incidence of these conditions.

The findings question the widely accepted notion that minimizing early-life exposure to dust, dirt, and dander protects children against asthma and allergies.

"In practical terms, what this means is that efforts to reduce allergens in the home are not likely to be a good way of preventing asthma," lead researcher Paul Cullinan, MD, tells WebMD. "We didn't look at whether keeping your house as free of allergens as possible helps in the treatment of kids who already have these conditions, but from a prevention point of view this is a dead issue."

Cats and Mites

Cullinan and colleagues followed 550 children from birth in southern England. The study appears in the October issue of the journal Thorax.

Household exposures to dust mites and cat dander were tested when the children were just over 2 months old. Their mothers were asked to report any wheezing, a symptom of possible asthma. When the children reached age 5 1/2, they were tested for allergies to dust mites, cat fur, and grass pollens.

Overall, 10% of the kids were allergic to dust mites or cats at age 5 1/2 -- in line with allergy rates from the general population. About 7% had episodes of wheezing.

But kids who were exposed to low levels of allergy triggers were at highest risk of developing allergies and asthma. Kids exposed to higher levels of allergens were less likely to develop these conditions.

The newly published study at least partly contradicts the findings of a similar German study -- one of the only other trials to look at this issue and follow children from birth. That study found a strong relationship between exposure to dust and dander and development of allergies and asthma. But most of the children had a high risk for these respiratory conditions -- likely due to having other family members with these conditions. This was not the case with the current U.K. study.

In an editorial accompanying the study, asthma expert Adnan Custovic writes that the seemingly contradictory findings imply that a one-size-fits-all approach to prevention may not be the best strategy.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities