• Asthma Relapse in Children Common
One third of children with asthma who go into remission by the age of 18 will relapse and redevelop asthma by the time they are 26, says a new study published in the March 2005 issue of CHEST. The findings also suggest that children with certain common allergies, such as house dust-mite sensitivity, and/or poor lung function are more likely to redevelop asthma following remission. “While we cannot definitively explain why some individuals experience asthma relapse and others do not, we found that persistence of asthma and asthma relapse are significantly increased in children with house dust-mite sensitivity,” said study author, Malcolm R. Sears, MB, ChB, FRCPC, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “This is likely due to persistent inflammation and genetic factors.”

• New Test Designed to Assess Asthma
The American Lung Association is teaming up with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to promote the new Asthma Control Test™ (ACT). The five-question test provides patients and physicians with a simple, highly predictive tool they can use to assess symptoms and medicines so they can make necessary treatment adjustments. The ACT was introduced in the fall of 2002, and is being distributed as part of a national asthma education campaign. The ACT is available online at www.AsthmaActionAmerica.org.

• Smoking Cessation Counseling Effective
In-hospital smoking cessation counseling following heart attacks is associated with better short-term survival, a study published in the March 2005 issue of The American Journal of Medicine indicates. Counseling smokers to quit reduced their chances of dying in the first 30 days, 60 days, and up to 1 year after their attacks. The study, conducted by investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Deep South Center on Effectiveness at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, found that even after adjusting for other factors such as demographic characteristics and comorbid conditions, those counseled were still less likely to die in the first year.

Asthma Linked to Grandmother’s Smoking
A child whose grandmother smoked while pregnant may have double the risk of developing childhood asthma, according to new research. A study published in the April issue of CHEST suggests that the harmful effects of tobacco products can be passed through the generations, even if the damage is not visibly apparent in the second generation. “This is the first study to show that, if a woman smokes while she is pregnant, both her children and grandchildren may be more likely to have asthma as a result,” said the study’s author, Frank D. Gilliland, MD, PhD, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “The findings suggest that smoking could have a long-term impact on a family’s health that has never before been realized.”

Exercise-Induced Shortness of Breath Not Always Asthma
Asthma is the most common cause of exercise-induced shortness of breath in children and adolescents. However, according to a study conducted by Miles Weinberger, MD, professor of pediatrics in the University of Iowa (UI) Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at Children’s Hospital of Iowa, and colleagues, other unrelated conditions also can cause shortness of breath during exercise. The study was reported in the March issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In cases where the asthma diagnosis is questionable, the UI experts recommend further testing to identify the true cause of exercise-induced shortness of breath. “Asthma usually responds well to treatment, and people with asthma who are well treated can have normal exercise tolerance,” said Weinberger. “However,” he added, “if the asthma medication doesn’t work and the patient has normal lung function when measured before exercise, it is probably not asthma. If a patient is not responding to the simplest measure, such as use of a bronchodilator inhaler, and there are no other asthmatic symptoms, the exercise-induced shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, requires further detailed evaluation.”

 Mold in Homes Doubles Risk of Asthma
Exposure to mold and dampness in homes as much as doubles the risk of asthma development in children, according to a study published in the March issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers found that having a parent with a history of allergies increased susceptibility in children. They also found that mold odor increased the risk independent of parents’ medical histories. In fact, children living in homes with mold odor during the initial study period were more than twice as likely to develop asthma in the following 6 years. “These findings strengthen evidence that exposure to molds increases the risk of developing asthma in childhood,” said lead author Jouni Jaakkola, MD, DSc, PhD, director of the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “They also show the importance of heredity—children of parents with asthma have a twofold risk of asthma compared with children of nonasthmatic parents.”