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Asthma Health Outcomes Project

Overviews of Surveyed Asthma ProgramsSeptember 2005

Domestic Programs: Virginia (cont’d)Back to Index

Dust Mite Allergen Avoidance in the Treatment of Hospitalized Children with Asthma

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

Thomas Platts-Mills MD, PhD


The objective of this study was to evaluate the practicality and effects of dust mite (D. farinae and D. pteronyssinus) allergen avoidance in homes of children hospitalized with acute asthma in Atlanta, GA.

Children 5 to 18 years of age who were admitted with asthma to a suburban Atlanta hospital were randomly assigned, without knowledge of allergen sensitization or exposure in their houses, to active (n = 13) or placebo (n = 10) treatment group. Active treatment included encasing the mattress, box springs, and pillows in allergen impermeable covers; weekly hot water washing of bed linens; replacement of bedroom carpet with polished flooring; and 3% tannic acid spray to living room carpet. Placebo treatment included permeable encasings for bedding, cold water wash, and water spray for carpet. Dust samples were analyzed for dust mite, cockroach, and cat allergens, while serum samples were analyzed for IgE antibodies to the same allergens. Outcome measures included daily peak expiratory flow rates, spirometry, methacholine inhalation challenge, and hospital readmission.

Children in both groups were similar by demographics, sensitization, and exposure to dust mite allergen. Allergen levels fell > 3-fold in many active and placebo homes. Children in the active group had improved PEFR at three- and six-months after intervention (P < .04, P < .05, respectively). Six of seven children in the study who were sensitized and exposed to dust mite allergen demonstrated improved PEFR at three-months when allergen levels fell in both bedding and bedroom floor. There was no difference in FEV1 or methacholine challenge, although few children in either group could tolerate methacholine because of bronchial hyper reactivity. Six children (four active and two placebo) were readmitted to hospital during the study.

Increases in PEFR were recorded among children in the active treatment group and also among sensitized patients whose dust mite allergens fell. These results support the hypothesis that avoidance can be effective even among children admitted to hospital.

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