ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
A Little Drink May Be Good for Your Bones
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
CANCER
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
CAREGIVING
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
DIABETES
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Asparagus May Ease Hangover
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
EYE CARE, VISION
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
FITNESS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Biomarkers May Help Measure Rate of Decline in Dementia
Go To Work But Skip The Car
Deployment Takes Toll on Army Wives
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Frequent Feedings May Be Making Babies Fat
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Add your Article

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