Bring on the Bugs?

Think that keeping your children’s hands and mouths clean is helping them stay healthy?  Think again!  New research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center reveals that exposure to common antibacterials found in soap, toothpaste, mouthwash and other personal-care products may make children more prone to a wide range of food and environmental allergies.

Using existing data from a national health survey of 860 children aged 6-18, the researchers examined the relationship between the children’s urinary levels of antibacterials and preservatives found in many personal-hygiene products and the presence of IgE antibodies in the child’s blood. IgE are markedly elevated in people with allergies.

We saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens,” said lead investigator Jessica Savage, M.D., M.H.S., an allergy and immunology fellow at Hopkins.

While antibacterials and preservatives themselves don’t cause allergies, that these agents appear to play a role in immune system development.

The link between allergy risk and antimicrobial exposure suggests that these agents may disrupt the delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body and lead to immune system dysregulation, which in turn raises the risk of allergies,” Savage added.

In the study, those with the highest urine levels of triclosan – an antibacterial agent used in soaps, mouthwash and toothpaste – had the highest levels of IgE antibodies and their risk for food allergy risk was twice that of children with the lowest triclosan levels. Similarly, children with the highest urinary levels of parabens – preservatives with antimicrobial properties used in cosmetics, food and medications – were more likely to have detectable levels of IgE antibodies and twice the risk of environmental allergens such as pollen and pet dander.

These findings are consistent with the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which has recently gained traction as one possible explanation behind the growing rates of food and environmental allergies in the developed world. The hypothesis suggests that early childhood exposure to common pathogens is essential in building healthy immune responses. Lack of such exposure, can lead to an overactive immune system that misfires against harmless substances such as food proteins, pollen or pet dander.

Just  this week, other new research from the University of California, San Francisco has provided some answers to why children who grow up in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies.

All of which suggests that parents should put away the hand sanitizer and let their kids play in the dirt with a dog!

Long, long sneezy days of summer

Seems it’s not just polar bears and politicians who need to be concerned about global warming. According to a new study, allergy sufferers are going to be in for a hard time too.  Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture have discovered that ragweed pollen levels are rising along with the temperatures.

The team of researchers, who analyzed ragweed pollen counts from Texas to Saskatoon over a 15-year period , also concluded that the length of the ragweed season, which is dependent on warm temperatures, would increase in northern latitudes.

From 1995 – 2009, Madison  and LaCrosse, WI saw an increase in their ragweed season of 12 and 13 days respectively while Minneapolis, MN and Fargo, ND, saw their ragweed season increase in length by 16 days. Further north, in Winnipeg and Saskatoon the ragweed seasons lengthened  by 25 – 27 days.

Better news though for those in the South.  The ragweed season  in Texas and Arkansas actually decreased by three or four days although the amount of allergen in the air during the season increased.

This study is a confirmation of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been projecting. We’ve gone from a theoretical projection of changes in the timing of ragweed season, to boots on the ground starting to see it happen,” said study author Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the Agricultural Research Service.

This all adds up to a lot of summer suffering. At least 1 in every 10 people in the United States is sensitive to ragweed and the pollen is the culprit in more than a quarter of all allergy cases.

SRxA’s teams of expert Allergy and Ocular Advisors are on hand to help pharmaceutical companies educate physicians and patients  on this latest aspect of global warming.

Love Hurts!

SRxA’s Word on Health team just returned from a memorable trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  In addition to managing a number of highly successful events, meeting many of our wonderful clients and spending some quality time with our Advisors; we were able to catch up with all the latest news from the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

During one of the more memorable sessions, we learned that kissing and um, er, let’s just say, more intimate contact, can be fraught with danger for those with allergies, while in another we found out that everything from our makeup, to our cell phones might be making us sick.

Over the coming days we’ll be sharing the congress highlights with are readers, but in the meantime, let’s get back to kissing…

According to Dr. Sami Bahna, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while allergic reactions from kissing are relatively uncommon, they do occur.

Apparently, allergens from food substances can linger in a partner’s saliva up to a full day following ingestion, irrespective of tooth-brushing, rinsing, flossing  or other interventions such as chewing gum.

And if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies we’re not just talking about a passionate kiss. Even a kiss on the cheek or the forehead from a partner who has consumed an identified allergen can cause a severe reaction ranging from lip-swelling, throat-swelling, rash, hives, itching, and/or wheezing immediately after kissing.

And kissing isn’t the only form of romantic activity that can trigger allergic reactions in the highly sensitive. The ACAAI notes that sexual intercourse can pose its own hazards, given that some patients are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides, lubricants and/or latex condoms.  Even sperm can prompt an allergic reaction in some, as can the more general emotional and physical exertion of intercourse itself.

When it comes to semen allergy, Bahna said antihistamines can sometimes help with mild issues, as can immunotherapy treatments offered by allergists. Condoms can also help, as long as a person is not allergic to latex!

Despite these warnings, Bahna stressed, “I do not want this discussion to cause all people with allergies to live in fear. If your girlfriend or your wife is not very allergic to peanuts she won’t be affected by a kiss from a person who ate peanuts.”

Additionally, allergists can help determine what’s causing the allergy and find the right treatment. They have the training and expertise to treat more than just symptoms. They can identify the source of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan to eliminate it.

You can follow the ACCAI annual meeting on Twitter at #ACAAI2010.

Word on Health Goes West

SRxA’s Word on Health in-house team of healthcare experts and many of our renowned Clinical Advisors are about to head out for the annual American College of Asthma Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI) congress, which, this year, is taking place in Phoenix, AZ; from November 11-16.

In addition to educating ourselves on all that’s new in this exciting specialty, we are available to meet with our existing and potential new clients.

Our multitalented, multinational team has, between us, decades of experience in clinical practice, clinical research, regulatory strategy, compliance, professional education, publications, pharmaceutical sales and marketing, advocacy, thought leader development, health outcomes and consulting.

If you are looking for help with:

  • Strategic planning
  • Product support
  • Professional marketing
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory strategy
  • Social media outreach
  • Peer-to-peer education
  • …and so much more

we’d love to meet you and explain how SRxA can transform your challenges into opportunities.

Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Sweet Dreams for allergy sufferers

Hot on the heels of our recent bed bug story, Word on Health is delighted to bring you news of a better nights sleep.

The Hyatt hotel chain is pioneering a program where they will set aside rooms specifically for people with allergies and asthma. 3% to 5% of all full-service Hyatt hotel rooms will be converted this year – a total  of 2,000 rooms at 125 properties

First up – the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, TX.   In addition to enjoying the spa, lazy river, and beautiful golf course, guests can now chose to stay in a hypoallergenicroom.

As we write, crews are preparing 16 rooms to make them allergy friendly.

Measures will include:

  • Putting special coverings on mattresses and pillow cases
  • All hard and soft surfaces will be coated with a special barrier
  • Each room has an air purifier – a class two medical device that re-circulates the air 4 x an hour

When you walk into the room, the air doesn’t feel as humid or as heavy,” observed executive assistant manager Jeff Babcock. “It actually feels light. As an allergy sufferer myself, I can tell you I feel nice and relaxed when I walk in.”

The cost of upgrading to an allergy friendly room will be $25-$30 per night.  Iif the rooms prove to be popular, Hyatt will  expand the program.

According to the hotel giant, there is  a growing demand for such rooms from guests who suffer from respiratory problems. This is not so surprising  given that about 54% of Americans are sensitive to at least one allergen.   Dust mites, a major component of dust, are one of the more common allergens and can be found in mattresses, pillows, carpets and upholstery.  A frequently cited 1996 study in New Zealand found that hotel carpeting and beds had the highest concentration of dust mite allergens of any public place, including hospitals, rest homes, churches, child care centers and movie theaters.

SRxA’s Word on Health applauds the Hyatt on this initiative.  We’d also like to hear from you if you have allergy related hotel stories to share.

Stress at work increases the risk of asthma

A couple of weeks ago Word on Health reported that working too hard may be bad for your heart.  Now, there’s evidence that it’s also bad for your lungs!

According to a new study, employees who find it difficult to leave their problems at the office are much more likely to develop asthma. The research showed that having a stressful job can increase the risk of developing asthma by 40%.

Although most sufferers develop asthma in childhood, significant numbers are now diagnosed as adults. The research, from Heidelberg University in Germany, suggests stress at work could be one reason why. Researchers tracked 5,000 men and women, aged between 40 and 65, over eight years.

They found that among those free of asthma at the start of the project, there was up to a 40% higher incidence of asthma eight years later, if they suffered stress at work.

The signs were long working hours, demanding schedules and uncomfortable working conditions.

The report, detailed in Allergy, said: ‘Our study suggests work stress and the inability to relax after work are associated with an increased risk of asthma.’

Earlier studies have shown stress can lead to the release of chemicals that promote allergies and disrupt the way the body halts inflammation of the airways.

The team stressed that the absolute risk of someone developing asthma because they are overloaded at work is still very small.

Nevertheless, next time you’re asked to work late, you may want to stop and think of your health.

New Way to Eliminate Source of Asthma?

U.S. researchers say they’ve found a way to eliminate the source of immune system molecules that cause asthma and other allergic diseases.

These soluble IgE moleclues are produced by immune cells called B cells. While targeting IgE in the blood is an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe allergic asthma, this approach doesn’t stop IgE production and patients require repeated treatments.

According to the May 10 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists from Genentech say they’ve developed a way to eliminate IgE-producing B cells.  This finding could potentially lead to new long-lasting treatments for asthma and other allergic diseases.  So far the method has only been tested in mice, where it proved highly effective.

Word on Health awaits the results of future studies in humans.

Allergy Aid is just a click away

For many people the arrival of spring is a time for celebration marking, as it does, the end of winter and the coming of summer. But for the 50 million Americans with allergies, spring heralds the arrival of pollen and a long season of misery.  However, this year, there is hope.  The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) has teamed up with Rite Aid to bring help to allergy sufferers.

Visitors to can:

Rite Aid’s focus on allergy awareness is part of its yearlong commitment to health and wellness.

Additional resources for allergy sufferers can be found on the AAAAI website including an allergist locator, a pollen monitoring database and The Virtual Allergist, an interactive tool to help patients better understand their symptoms before consulting with a board-certified allergist.

Whether you suffer from allergies, treat allergy sufferers, or manufacture allergy relief products, SRxA’s Word on Health would love to hear your tips for coping with spring allergy season.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Achoo!

Is it time to say goodbye to first generation allergy meds?  Yes, says a new report just published in Allergy.

The European expert authors, tell us that older H1 antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine, readily available as over-the-counter treatments for allergic rhinitis may be dangerous to our health.

They have been linked with numerous health and social problems such as poor sleep patterns; reduced work performance and learning ability; aviation, car and boating accidents caused by drowsiness; suicides in teenagers and adults and even death as a result of accidental overdose in children and infants.
The report ultimately questions whether it is in the interest of public safety that they remain available as over-the-counter allergy medications.

SRxA‘s Word on Health is pleased to note that this doesn’t mean that the 27 million or more Americans with allergies are going to have to suffer.  Newer generation allergy medicines, available as nasal sprays or tablets have been shown to have fewer side effects, longer duration of action, and greater reliability and efficacy.

Scientists Discover Allergy “Switch”

Word on Health was interested to learn that researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have found a molecule that specifically directs immune cells to develop the capability to produce allergic diseases such as asthma, eczema, and food allergy.  The study identifies thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) as a switch that causes the development of the allergic response.

The study team, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., and supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggests that TSLP may be a potential therapeutic target to treat and prevent allergic diseases.

While this discovery is promising, leading allergy doctors have advised that it’s too early for allergy sufferers worldwide to start celebrating. “This is the latest in a long list of potential underlying causes for why some patients develop a harmful immunologic reaction to common, naturally occurring substances which are benign to the majority of people” cautioned Allan Luskin, MD of Madison, WI. “There have been many previous ‘pretenders’ which were thought to be responsible for this adverse immunologic response.  Much more data in needed before we can start talking about developing a therapeutic intervention”.

Dr. Michael Kaliner, Medical Director of the Institute for Asthma and Allergy, former head of Allergic Diseases at NIH and past president of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, and the World Allergy Organization, agrees.  He told Word on Health “Scientists keep searching for what makes an allergic patient exposed to an otherwise harmless protein, make antibodies, when non-allergic patients make no response whatsoever.  It is the ability to see and recognize an allergen in these ordinary substances that separates the allergic from the non-allergic population.”  Dr. Kaliner added, “If this factor is ultimately determined to be the factor instead of one of many, then it will be a viable target for therapeutic intervention”.

Meanwhile, only time will tell if TSLP is just another flash in the pan.