Research Roundup: December/January 2018


The latest medical news for people with allergies and food sensitivities.

thunderstorm view

© Shutterstock/Irina Kozorog

Thunderstorm Asthma

A recent study examined how thunderstorms can provoke asthma attacks even in those without a history of asthma (but with hay fever or pollen allergy). Thunderstorms have been associated with asthma outbreaks, particularly during pollen season.

The first reported case was in 1983. Since then, asthma epidemics due to thunderstorms have occurred in Australia, the U.K., Italy, the United States and other places around the world. The worst occurred in 2016 in Melbourne, Australia, where 8,500 people entered hospital emergency departments and 9 people died. These episodes are rare but may increase due to anticipated climate change, researchers say.

The study found that episodes are related to pollen and outdoor mold seasons. The hypothesis is that pollen grains, which are normally too large to travel down the bronchial tubes, are upswept during thunderstorms and broken into smaller fragments which are more readily inhaled into the lower airways.

Researchers concluded that people with pollen allergy should be made aware of the risk of being outdoors during thunderstorms. People with pollen allergy who stay indoors with their windows closed during thunderstorms are not affected.

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Diagnosing Food Allergy

Food allergies are more prevalent and an increasing number of people believe they have one. This makes accurately diagnosing a food allergy critically important. The oral food challenge (a person ingests a small dose of food under close medical supervision) is considered the diagnostic gold standard.

A recent study on the safety of oral food challenges performed at five food allergy centers throughout the United States found them to be very safe. Researchers reported that only about 2 percent of people who underwent a challenge had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis); only about 14 percent had any reaction at all. Reactions to an oral food challenge considered mild to moderate involved only one part of the body, such as hives on the skin. The majority of those undergoing a challenge were younger than 18 years old.

“It’s important to have an accurate diagnosis of food allergy so an allergist can make a clear recommendation as to what foods you need to keep out of your diet,” says allergist Carla Davis, MD, a senior author of the study. “When an oral food challenge is delayed, sometimes people unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet….A delay risks problems with nutrition, especially for children.”

The study was published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

New Guide for Celiac Pediatric Care

The Celiac Disease Foundation and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) recently released a Clinical Guide for Pediatric Celiac Disease. This easy-to-use web-based tool is designed to help healthcare professionals diagnose and manage pediatric patients with celiac disease. It was created to improve early and increased diagnosis of celiac disease, to heighten the quality of care and to help navigate the “challenging steps” that can occur in evaluating celiac disease. Free access to the Clinical Guide is available at


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