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Educating patients with asthma on avoiding allergens is suboptimal

People with asthma can improve their airway functioning and reduce their symptoms such as coughing and wheezing by avoiding allergens (substances to which they are allergic). A study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09973) found that 60 percent of inner-city adults with persistent asthma had been evaluated for allergen sensitivity; however, only about half of adults who were allergic to dust mites or mold were advised on how to minimize their exposure to those allergens.

Researchers examined the responses of 169 inner-city adults to a questionnaire that assessed tests for allergen sensitization, allergen avoidance education, and patient adherence to recommendations. The adults studied had been hospitalized for asthma during a 12-month period. Overall, 60 percent of these adults had been evaluated for allergen sensitivity. Allergy testing was 3 times more likely among women, 7 times more likely for those who used oral steroids most or all of the time, and 74 percent less likely among smokers.

Among those who were evaluated, 94 percent were sensitized to at least one allergen: 91.5 percent to dust mites, 90.5 percent to outdoor allergens, 77.9 percent to cats, 69.5 percent to dogs, 68.4 percent to molds, and 61 percent to cockroaches. About half of the patients sensitized to dust mites (55 percent) or mold (53 percent) were given advice on how to minimize exposure to these allergens. Patients varied greatly as to how well they followed this advice.

See "Allergen sensitization evaluation and allergen avoidance education in an inner-city adult cohort with persistent asthma," by Paula J. Busse, M.D., Jason J. Wang, Ph.D., and Ethan A. Halm, M.D., M.P.H., in the July 2005 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 116, pp. 146-152.

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