Background: Indoor inhaled allergens have been repeatedly demonstrated to worsen asthma in sensitized individuals, but their role in incident asthma is more controversial.
Objective: We investigated the relationship between exposure to allergens (dust mite, cat, and cockroach) measured in the home and incident doctor-diagnosed asthma and recurrent wheezing in children born to parents with asthma, allergies, or both.
Methods: From an ongoing longitudinal family and birth cohort study, we identified 222 siblings (median age, 2.87 years) of the index children. Allergen levels in the home were measured from dust samples obtained at the beginning of the study. Incident doctor-diagnosed asthma and recurrent wheezing were determined from questionnaires administered at 14 months and 22 months after the initial questionnaire.
Results: Thirteen (5.9%) children were reported to have incident asthma, twenty (9.0%) children had recurrent asthmatic wheezing, and 18 (8.1%) had recurrent wheezing without asthma. Compared with children living in homes with Bla g 1 or 2 levels of less than 0.05 U/g, children exposed to Bla g 1 or 2 levels of 0.05 to less than 2 U/g had a relative risk for incident asthma of 8.27 (95% confidence interval, 1.04-66.04), whereas children exposed to Bla g 1 or 2 levels of 2 U/g or greater had a relative risk for incident asthma of 35.87 (95% confidence interval, 4.49-286.62). Cockroach allergen exposure was likewise a significant predictor for recurrent asthmatic wheezing. Neither dust mite nor cat allergen levels were significantly associated with either outcome. These findings remained after control for several covariates.
Conclusion: Exposure to cockroach allergen early in life may contribute to the development of asthma in susceptible children.