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A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers further evidence to disprove the prevailing incorrect theory that asthma is caused by lack of infections. This report shows that children who have been infected with measles are at increased risk for developing asthma.

Proponents of the "inactive immune system theory" argue that the only way that you can develop a strong immunity is to become infected with germs that cause your body to produce cells and proteins called antibodies that attack and kill germs. If you are not infected frequently and early enough, your immune system becomes super sensitive, and attacks anything that gets into your nose, such as pollen, dust, mold and animal dander, causing swelling, redness, mucous and pain called allergic rhinitis in the nose and asthma in the chest. Immunizations, antibiotics and isolation of infected children have reduced infections. They cite research showing that children who live in very large families- where there are lots of people to give them lots of infections- are at reduced risk for asthma.

However, children who live on farms are exposed to far fewer people and germs than city kids and they get much less asthma and doctors now feel that asthma may be caused by a specific bacteria, fungus or virus and the most likely cause is the respiratory syncytial virus (1,2,3,4). Recent research shows that most asthmatic children have been infected with respiratory syncytial virus. There is no way to prevent respiratory syncytial virus infections, but they could be treated with gamma globulin taken from people who have had this infection and inhalations of ribavirin.

1)M Kattan.Epidemiologic evidence of increased airway reactivity in children with a history of bronchiolitis.Journal of Pediatrics, 1999, Vol 135, Iss 2, Part 2, Suppl. S, pp S8-S13.

2) JA Englund. Prevention strategies for respiratory syncytial virus: Passive and active immunization.Journal of Pediatrics, 1999, Vol 135, Iss 2, Part 2, Suppl. S, pp S38-S44.

3)WJ Rodriguez. Management strategies for respiratory syncytial virus infections in infants.Journal of Pediatrics, 1999, Vol 135, Iss 2, Part 2, Suppl. S, pp S45-S50.

4) JC Hogg. Childhood viral infection and the pathogenesis of asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 1999, Vol 160, Iss 5, Suppl. S, pp S26-S28.

5) AM Bramley, TZ Vitalis, BR Wiggs, RG Hegele. Effects of respiratory syncytial virus persistence on airway responsiveness and inflammation in guinea-pigs. European Respiratory Journal, 1999, Vol 14 iss5, 1061-67.

6) E Najberg, E Piontek, I Czubkowska, G Wasaznik. Respiratory infections as the most important factor of severe asthma exacerbations in children. XVI World Congress of Asthma, 1999, pp 51-55.

Reported 1/15/00

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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