March 28, 2002 -- Common allergy stimulants such as dust mites and pet dander may work together with respiratory viruses to make asthma worse. A new study suggests that not only are asthma sufferers more likely to get viral infections, but their chance of going in the hospital with severe asthma attacks rises dramatically if they have problems with allergies.
Previous studies have shown that viral infections or allergies can trigger attacks of wheezing or asthma in children. But researchers say little is known about how these factors may work in combination to aggravate asthma in adults.
The study, published in the March 30 issue of the British Medical Journal, looked at 60 adults who had been admitted to the hospital with asthma attacks. They were compared with people with stable asthma and people who had been admitted to the hospital for other, non-asthma related causes.
Researchers found that 66% of people who had been hospitalized for asthma attacks tested positive for an allergy to dust mites, cats, or dogs. Only 37% of the stable asthma patients and 15% of the other patients tested positive for such an allergy.
Respiratory viruses were also detected more often in asthma patients than the other two groups.
The authors say the findings suggest that people with asthma may be more susceptible to viral respiratory infections than people who do not have asthma, regardless of age. In addition, exposure and sensitization to allergy stimulants may work together with viruses to increase the risk of hospital admission for severe asthma.
They say strategies to reduce exposure to allergy stimulants for people with asthma are needed to reduce this risk of hospitalization.
SOURCE: Green, R. British Medical Journal, March 30, 2002; vol 324: pp 763.