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FDA: Some asthma meds make symptoms worse

The use of a popular medication for asthma patients increases the risk of excess asthma-related “events,” according to a study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics. The study linked the use of so-called LABAs, or long acting beta-agonists, to increased symptoms in children, with the greatest risk found among the youngest patients. This latest report is especially noteworthy in light ofother recent researchconducted by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore demonstrating that HEPA air purifiers can be as effective as medication in reducing asthma symptoms for children in homes where parents smoke.

But if HEPA air purifiers can apparently help manage asthma symptoms, the wrong choice in an air purifier can make matters worse, experts say. Look at it this way: Suppose a friend has an allergy to nuts, and so instead of serving your friend a peanut butter sandwich on white bread you serve him or her a ham sandwich on banana nut bread. That’s no way to treat a friend. Why would you try to clean the air by using an air purifier that produces ozone? The Mayo Clinic website warns: “In fact, inhaled ozone can make asthma worse.” Nonetheless, there are air purifiers that claim to clean the air by deliberately producing large amounts of ozone. And many ionizing air purifiers also produce ozone as a by-product of electrically charging ions in the air.

Credible sources such as the American Lung Association recommend a mechanical air purifier for helping remove triggers to allergies and asthma. In order for a “mechanical” HEPA air cleaner to be effective at removing asthma triggers from the air it has to be running for a while to clean the air. WebMD.com rightly notes that room air purifiers take five to 15 minutes to remove dust and allergens in the air. And, of course, they cannot offer immediate protection against “local disturbances, such as the microscopic house dust mite feces that surround a pillow when your head hits it (or you turn over in bed),” the site notes. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also concludes that air purifiers “are worth considering, but not as a solution to your asthma or allergy problems by themselves.”

The new research on asthma medications released this week was directed by the Office of Pediatric Therapeutics at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study is likely to keep attention focused on the role of air purifiers in managing asthma symptoms, especially with asthma rates among children continuing to increase.

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