BACKGROUND: Children with allergic rhinitis are likely to develop asthma.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether specific immunotherapy can prevent the development of asthma and reduce bronchial hyperresponsiveness in children with seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.
METHODS: From 6 pediatric allergy centers, 205 children aged 6 to 14 years (mean age, 10.7 years) with grass and/or birch pollen allergy but without any other clinically important allergy were randomized either to receive specific immunotherapy for 3 years or to an open control group. All subjects had moderate to severe hay fever symptoms, but at inclusion none reported asthma with need of daily treatment. Symptomatic treatment was limited to loratadine, levocabastine, sodium cromoglycate, and nasal budesonide. Asthma was evaluated clinically and by peak flow. Methacholine bronchial provocation tests were carried out during the season(s) and during the winter.
RESULTS: Before the start of immunotherapy, 20% of the children had mild asthma symptoms during the pollen season(s). Among those without asthma, the actively treated children had significantly fewer asthma symptoms after 3 years as evaluated by clinical diagnosis (odds ratio, 2.52; P <.05). Methacholine bronchial provocation test results improved significant in the active group (P <.05).
CONCLUSION: Immunotherapy can reduce the development of asthma in children with seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis.