Increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent allergies and asthma in children, researchers have shown. Avoiding exposure to dust mites in the house also helps.
"Two factors thought to influence the risk of asthma are the promoting effect of sensitization to house dust mites and the preventive effect of increased omega-3 fatty acids," Dr. Seema Mihrshahi, of Children's Hospital at Westmead, Australia, and colleagues write in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
"Although house dust mite allergen avoidance has been used as a preventive strategy in several trials, the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in the...prevention of asthma and allergic disease is not known," they said.
To investigate, the researchers examined the effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and avoidance of house dust mite allergen in 526 children with a family history of asthma. The subjects were enrolled before birth and were followed to 3 years of age.
Fatty acid supplementation seemed to reduce cough in children at risk for allergy. In contrast, no benefit was seen in kids not predisposed to allergy. In addition, limiting exposure to dust mites helped prevent allergies.
"These results suggest that our interventions, designed to be used in simple public health campaigns, may have a role in preventing the development of allergic sensitization and airways disease in early childhood," the investigators conclude.
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, October 2004.