Feather bedding and house dust mite sensitization and airway disease in childhood.
Ponsonby AL., Kemp A., Dwyer T., Carmichael A., Couper D., Cochrane J.
Feather bedding has been inversely associated with child wheeze and also with house dust mite (HDM) allergen levels. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the childhood component of a birth cohort study. Our aim was to examine the relation between feather bedding and HDM sensitization and airway disease. A total of 498 children (84% of eligible) residing in Northern Tasmania in 1997 who were eligible for the Tasmanian Infant Health Survey at birth in 1988 or 1989 participated. Outcome measures included atopic sensitization to Dermatophagoides farinae or Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus allergens, spirometric lung function, and child respiratory symptoms using questions from the ISAAC study. HDM sensitization was strongly associated with frequent wheeze (more than 12 episodes of wheeze compared with no wheeze in the past year) (rate ratio [RR], 19.61; confidence interval [CI], 6.94-55.56) but only weakly associated with asthma ever (RR, 1.65; CI, 1.30-2.09). Feather quilt use was associated with reduced HDM sensitization (adjusted RR [ARR], 0.60; CI, 0.45-0.80) and also reduced frequent wheeze episodes over the past year (ARR, 0.24; CI, 0.07-0.86). The reduction in wheeze was more evident among HDM-sensitized children. These findings are consistent with the possible mechanisms for feather bedding of a reduction in initial HDM sensitization and an improvement in respiratory symptoms among HDM-sensitized children. However, prospective studies are required to fully exclude selection bias.