Seasonal Allergies Affect ADHD

Research shows assorted types can worsen symptoms

THURSDAY, March 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may worsen with a seasonal allergy.

That's the word from doctors at Long Island College Hospital in New York City, who presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Denver.

The study involved 20 children between the ages of 5 and 18, all of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD. But only two had been evaluated for allergy problems, even though all had a family history of allergies.

The researchers screened the children for allergic rhinitis, using not only a focused personal and family history, but also blood and other types of allergy testing for mold, cockroaches, dogs, cats, feathers, ragweed, trees and grass.

The results? Eight of the children (40 percent) were diagnosed with asthma or atopic dermatitis; three (23 percent) with allergic rhinitis, and nine (69 percent) had at least one positive allergy test. Fifteen of the 20 also had a history of at least two allergic symptoms.

Based on those findings, the researchers concluded that a high percentage of children with ADHD may also harbor allergies and some of the behavioral patterns observed in ADHD might come from sleep problems caused by allergy symptoms -- particularly nasal obstruction.

The authors suggest all children diagnosed with ADHD should also be tested for seasonal and environmental allergies and that treatment might improve their overall behavior and symptoms.

The study was just one highlight among some important new findings that were presented at the six-day conference, which ended Wednesday. Here are some more:

Natural Cures

In two separate studies, experts report the best treatment for allergy problems linked to the pollen of flowers, trees, grass and weeds may indeed come from Mother Nature herself.

Researchers at Mashad University of Medical Sciences in Iran found a derivative of the French pine nut known as pycnogenol possessed both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties -- both of which might be helpful to allergy patients. Their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 26 asthma patients revealed that those who took pycnogenals had dramatically lower blood levels of immune factors and other inflammatory biochemicals linked to asthma.

And in a study of patients with a grass allergy, British researchers from Ninewells Hospital and Medical School found an herb known as Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) blocked mast cell sensitization, which helps stop the cascade of biochemicals that would otherwise evoke an allergic response. The placebo-controlled, double-blind study involved 20 patients who used the herb for two weeks during the prime grass pollen season.

Drugless Treatment of Environmental Allergies

If you're looking to control allergies to things such as dust, pollen and airborne mold spores, you might want to rip a page from Michael Jackson's eccentric health book by donning a paper dust mask.

In what is being called the first medical study of pollen filters, researchers at the Woodcock Institute of Medical Research in Australia say the inexpensive paper filters, which fit over the mouth and nose, dramatically reduce exposure to airborne allergens. The study involved 70 adults with fall allergies who wore either a paper pollen filter or a mock filter for two hours in a park where exposure to airborne pollens was high.

Over the two-hour period, the pollen filters dramatically reduced major symptoms such as sniffles, runny nose, number of sneezes, itchy, watery eyes and itchy throat. Nose blowing, nasal blockage and nasal mucous was also decreased in the group wearing the filters. The authors say this shows pollen filters may be an effective way of managing seasonal allergies, particularly during peak pollen seasons.

Microwave an Apple a Day, Keep the Allergist Away

Doctors at Gregoro Maranon Hospital in Madrid, Spain, say that simply placing your apple in a microwave oven for 2 minutes could significantly reduce allergens associated with the fruit. Although doctors have long known that heating fruits can either reduce allergies or create new ones, there was virtually no evidence of the effects of microwaving.

In this test of just four patients with significant apple allergies, results were 100 percent -- all four were able to tolerate the microwaved apples with ease. The researchers suggest that microwaving fruit should be considered as a way to reduce allergens in those who have this food sensitivity -- but not without checking with your doctor first. If your fruit allergy is severe, even microwaving may not help you.

Teary-Eyed Over the Change of Life

As if hot flashes, insomnia and hair in all the wrong places aren't quite enough for women to deal with at midlife, new research shows there could be one more quirk in the perimenopausal agenda.

The problem is swollen, tearing, itchy red eyes -- symptoms that, while they seem like an allergy, could be caused by the fluctuations in reproductive hormones occurring in women at midlife. In studies conducted at the New Jersey Medical School, researchers found that while 12 of 12 menopausal and perimenopausal women complained of these allergy-like eye symptoms, the use of antihistamines, the drug commonly used to relieve symptoms, failed to provide relief for all but two of them. Moreover, the majority of those who had skin testing for allergies were not found to have an allergic problem.

After testing hormone levels and taking a menstrual history, researchers concluded the women's "allergic-like" eye problems appear to be associated with the changes is estrogen and progesterone that occur just before and during menopause. The solution? Right now there doesn't appear to be one, except to avoid any products that appear to be making the problem worse, such as mascara, eye shadow or even eye creams.

More information

To learn more about allergies, visit The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

SOURCES: March 7-12, study presentations, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, annual meeting, Denver
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