The number of people with
asthma who are allergic to cats is on the rise, and it has doubled over 18 years, a
new study finds.
"From 1976 to 1994,
positive allergy skin tests in people with asthma have increased significantly,"
study author Dr Leonard Bielory said in a news release from the American
College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
"Not only have we
found the number of asthma sufferers allergic to cats has more than doubled,
but those with asthma are also 32% more likely to be allergic to cats than
those without asthma," he added.
The researchers also found
that people with asthma are more likely to be allergic to several environmental
triggers common in the fall, including ragweed, ryegrass and fungus.
Not well researched
The study was scheduled for
presentation Friday at the ACAAI's annual meeting, in Baltimore. The data and
conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
About 60% to 85% of people
with asthma have at least one allergy, but the most common types of allergies
in people with asthma have not been well researched, according to the ACAAI.
"This study helps us
better understand common trends in allergy and asthma, which can lead to improved
diagnosis and treatment," Dr James Sublett, chair of the ACAAI indoor
environment committee, said in the news release. "While it is unknown
exactly why there has been an increase in asthma and allergy sufferers, it is
thought a number of environmental factors can be responsible."
During the holidays,
allergy symptoms can suddenly appear in people with asthma and those who've
never had allergies. For example, while visiting friends and relatives with
cats, a person may develop a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.
There is also something
called the Thanksgiving Effect, where college students return home and discover
that they are now allergic to a pet that never before triggered symptoms.
"Allergies can strike
at any age in life, with symptoms disappearing and resurfacing years
later," Bielory said. "Allergies and asthma are serious diseases.
Misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous."
The US Environmental
Protection Agency has more about pets and asthma.