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Asthma Research Misleading For Parents - Sprott


23 November 2007

MEDIA RELEASE FOR PUBLICATION

New Asthma Research: Conclusions Out-Of-Date And Misleading For Parents

Asthma research published this month in the journal "Clinical and Experimental Allergy" is a further reason for babies' mattresses to be wrapped in specified plastic, says cot death prevention expert Dr Jim Sprott.

An Auckland University research team has found that sleeping on a used mattress in the first year of life is a risk factor for asthma.(1) The researchers stated that their finding "could be related to the observation that used mattresses have higher levels of [dust] mite allergen."

"The researchers are treating their finding as new, but their conclusions are already out-of-date", stated Dr Sprott. "Canadian asthma research reported in New Zealand in 1998 showed that encasing a mattress in an impermeable plastic cover prevents exposure to house dust mites, so it stands to reason that unwrapped cot mattresses are associated with elevated asthma risk."

In the Canadian research mattresses were encased in vapour-impermeable covers. Using sensitive assays, investigators found that encasement of the mattress significantly reduced house dust mite allergen in beds.(2) Noting that children are most likely to become sensitised to allergens during the first year of life, researcher Dr Allan Becker stated that mattresses should be encased from the time of a baby's birth to minimise exposure to allergens and subsequent sensitisation.

Mattress-wrapping is widely practised in New Zealand for the elimination of cot death risk.(3) "Quite obviously, babies' mattresses should also be wrapped to reduce asthma risk," stated Dr Sprott. "In view of the longstanding Canadian research finding, the Auckland University researchers clearly should take the logical next step and tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses to reduce asthma risk."

Dr Sprott noted that the Auckland University researchers reported a link between daycare attendance and the likelihood of respiratory tract infections. "US research has also shown, again years ago, that cot death risk is much higher in daycares than in babies' own homes," stated Dr Sprott.(4) "The reason for both findings is the multiple re-use of unwrapped mattresses in daycares. So once again the Auckland University researchers should take the logical next step and tell parents to wrap mattresses for avoidance of microbial infections."

"Mattress-wrapping is also essential for prevention of head flattening in babies," stated Dr Sprott. "If a baby is sleeping on a mattress wrapped in accordance with the cot death prevention protocol, the baby does not need to sleep face-up, and so the risk of head flattening can be eliminated by use of the side-sleeping position."

"Paediatric advice on the infant sleeping environment needs urgent revision," stated Dr Sprott. "Parents are being denied full information. Mattress-wrapping in accordance with the cot death prevention protocol eliminates cot death risk, and head flattening can also be avoided; mattress-wrapping also reduces asthma risk and risk of microbial infection.

"So why don't the Ministry of Health, Plunket and the Auckland University researchers tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses?"

ends

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