A team of researchers in the UK claim for the first time that there is a link between food allergies and life-threatening asthma attacks in children.
Reporting their findings in the July 2003 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), the team led by Gideon Lack at St Mary's Hospital in London, compared two groups of pediatric patients with asthma, the most common chronic disorder in children and adolescents.
They studied one group of 19 children hospitalised and on ventilators because of severe life-threatening asthma, and a group of 38 children with milder asthma.
Life threatening asthma was defined as an asthma attack that resulted in respiratory failure and required ventilator support in a pediatric intensive care unit.
According to the researchers more than 50 per cent of the children with life-threatening asthma had food allergies (especially to peanut), compared to only 10 per cent in the control group, raising the questions of whether life-threatening asthma attacks may be triggered by food allergies.
"This study stresses the importance of detailed allergy investigations in asthmatic children," said Lack. "This should allow pediatricians to identify a group of children at risk for severe reactions and the potential cause for severe asthma in certain children. "
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) estimates that asthma affects nearly 5 million children under the age of 18, including an estimated 1.3 million children under the age of five. More than 70 per cent of people with asthma also suffer from allergies.