ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
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Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
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ANIMAL CARE
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Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Extra Pounds in Mid-Life Affect Later Mobility
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Body Fat, Muscle Distribution Linked to RA Disability
CANCER
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
Immune Therapy May Aid Kids With Neuroblastoma
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Hispanic Children More Likely to Have Hearing Loss
Undoing the 'Big Baby' Trend
Are Hospital Mobile Phones Dialing Up Superbugs?
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
DIABETES
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
DIET, NUTRITION
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Healthy Eating While On Vacation
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
What's Cookin'? It Could Be Air Pollution
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Cleaning House May Be Risky for Women With Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
Food and Water Supply Poisoned by Perchlorate
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
SENIORS
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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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