Infants exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens as grow up are less likely to develop asthma by the time they are 7, according to research backed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, may help lead to ways to prevent asthma in the future, an NIH release said.
Previous studies have shown that limiting indoor allergen exposure can help control asthma, but the NIH said the new study indicates early exposure to some allergens may help prevent developing the chronic disease.
“We are learning more and more about how the early-life environment can influence the development of certain health conditions,” NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci said in the release. “If we can develop strategies to prevent asthma before it develops, we will help alleviate the burden this disease places on millions of people, as well as on their families and communities.”
The new study investigated asthma risk factors for children in urban environments, where asthma tends to be more prevalent and severe, the release said.
Among 442 children studied at age 7, 130. or 29 percent, had asthma. The study found that elevated levels of cockroach, mouse and cat allergens in dust samples from the children's homes during their first three years lead to lowered asthma risks by age 7, the release said.
“Our observations imply that exposure to a broad variety of indoor allergens, bacteria and bacterial products early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma,” James Gern, the main investigator working on the study, said in the release. “Additional research may help us identify specific targets for asthma prevention strategies.”