ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Needling Away Your Headaches With Acupuncture
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Lack Vitamin D
CANCER
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
CAREGIVING
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Diabetes Epidemic Now Poses Challenges for Nursing Homes
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Smog Tougher on the Obese
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
DIET, NUTRITION
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
Caffeine May Offer Some Skin Cancer Protection
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
EYE CARE, VISION
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Football Can Shrink Players
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter
More Single Women Are Having Babies
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Wood Fires Can Harm the Youngest Lungs
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
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Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk

A stressful pregnancy may increase the risk that a baby will develop asthma, a new study finds.

The role of stress in asthma is not understood, but animal studies suggest that prenatal stress can influence the infant's immune system in the womb, the researchers noted. It is also known that asthma is most prevalent in inner cities, where minorities and disadvantaged people live in increasingly stressful circumstances, they added.

"This is the first human study to corroborate research from animal studies demonstrating that stress experienced by mothers during their pregnancy influences their child's developing immune system starting in the womb," said lead researcher Dr. Rosalind Wright, an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"The work may point to the need to design interventions and strategies to reduce stress in pregnant women to both enhance the mother's well-being and to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses in their children such as asthma," she noted.

The report is published in the March 18 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For the study, Wright's team surveyed pregnant women in several cities, including Boston, Baltimore, New York and St. Louis. The women were mostly from ethnic minorities, and 20 percent lived below the poverty level.

In each of the 557 families, a mother or a father had a history of asthma or allergy.

All of the families completed a questionnaire that asked about the stress they lived with, such as domestic violence, money worries and violence in the community.

After the babies were born, Wright's group took samples of the umbilical cord blood. They used these samples to test reactions to various allergens, such as dust and cockroaches, and viral and bacterial stimulants.

Children born to more stressed-out moms-to-be had different immune cell responses when stimulated with various common environmental triggers compared to babies born to mothers reporting less stress, Wright said.

The researchers were particularly interested in the production of cytokines, which are proteins released by immune-system cells that help govern immune responses.

"The cytokine patterns seen in the higher-stress groups, an indicator of how the child's immune system is functioning at birth and responding to the environment, may be a marker of increased risk for developing asthma as they get older," Wright said.

Wright's team plans to follow the children as they grow up to see if they are at increased risk for developing asthma or allergies.

Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said these findings aren't surprising, but whether they predict a child's risk of asthma or other allergies is unclear.

"This is an intriguing finding," Lipshultz said. "It isn't surprising, preclinical studies have supported this, what's novel here is it's the first human study."

Lipshultz noted that during the first few months of life the infant is protected by the mother's immune system. "Then the baby has to start making their own immune system responses," he explained.

That's why it's tough to take these findings to the next stage, Lipshultz said: "This study can't tell you, based on whether a mom is stressed during pregnancy, that the child will be healthier or sicker from asthma or allergic diseases." He said the only way to tell is to follow these children as they grow up.

Another expert, Dr. Andrew R. Colin, director of the division of pediatric pulmonary and co-director of the Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said stress is a well-known risk factor for asthma.

"But this is a completely different understanding of the etiology [of asthma], that this is transmitted from generation to generation -- this is really interesting," he said.

"That the immunity of the mother is actually modified by stresses in the environment and transmits [it] to the next generation is not new. There is data that it goes even to the third generation," he said. "But the fact that stress is the major player in being the immune modulator, I think is really exciting."

SOURCES: Rosalind Wright, M.D., M.P.H., associate physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital, assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., chairman, pediatrics, and Andrew R. Colin, M.D., director, division of pediatric pulmonary, and co-director, Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Program, both of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; March 18, 2010, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, online