Cat Allergy Linked to Asthma
Study Shows Allergy to White Oak and an Outdoor Fungus Also Up Allergy Risk
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 28, 2007 -- More than half of asthma cases in the U.S. are linked to
allergies, with sensitivity to cats responsible for 29% of allergy-related
asthmas, according to new research from the National Institutes of Health.
Allergic sensitivity to cats, confirmed through skin testing, was associated
with a threefold increase in asthma risk in the study, conducted using data
from the nationally representative health survey, NHANES III.
Cat allergy was the strongest single predictor of asthma risk among the
common allergen exposures examined, but sensitivity to white oak and the common
outdoor fungus Alternaria were also independently associated with asthma
"This study confirms that the environment plays a major role in the
development of asthma," says Darryl C. Zeldin, MD, of the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Asthma, Allergies, and Cats
Along with researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases (NIAID), Zeldin and NIEHS colleagues examined skin test data for 10
common allergens from a nationally representative sample of 10,508 people
between the ages of 6 and 59.
The findings led the researchers to conclude that 56.3% of the asthma cases
in the U.S. are linked to allergies.
Each of the 10 allergens was initially found to be associated with an
increase in asthma risk, but after adjusting for other potential risk factors
only sensitivity to cats (29%), Alternaria (21%), and white oak (21%)
remained independent predictors of risk.
Other allergens tested included ragweed, dust mites, Russian thistle,
Bermuda grass, peanuts, perennial rye, and German cockroach.
While the study confirms an increase in asthma risk among people with
established cat allergies, it says little about the impact of specific
exposures to cats or the other asthma-related allergens identified.
The distinction is likely to be important to anyone who shares a home with a
The findings would seem to indicate that exposure to cats increases asthma
risk, but other studies have suggested that exposure early in life may actually
protect children from developing cat allergies in the first place.
Not All Asthma Cases Linked to Allergies
Zeldin tells WebMD that an as yet unpublished analysis of more recent NHANES
data should provide a better picture of exposure-associated risk.