Background: Allergic asthma is usually considered to be provoked by aeroallergens. However, we have recently recognized a group of children with food allergies who also develop asthma when exposed to the aerosolized form of the food.
Methods: Between 1997 and 1999 we prospectively identified children with an immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated food allergy who develop asthma on inhalational exposure to the relevant food allergen while it is being cooked. Subjects were exposed for 20 min to the aerosolized form of the allergen and the symptoms and the lung function were monitored. Aerosolization was achieved by cooking the food in a small room. Where possible challenges were double-blinded.
Results: We identified 12 children with an IgE-mediated food allergy who developed asthma on inhalational exposure to food. The implicated foods were fish, chickpea, milk, egg or buckwheat. Nine out of the 12 children consented to undergo a bronchial food challenge. Five challenges were positive with objective clinical features of asthma. Additionally, two children developed late-phase symptoms with a decrease in lung function. Positive reactions were seen with fish, chickpea and buckwheat. There were no reactions to the seven placebo challenges.
Conclusions: We have presented a prospective series of children with food allergy who developed symptoms of asthma with exposure to aerosolized food allergens. Our data demonstrates that, as in the case of other aeroallergens, inhaled food allergens can produce both early- and late-phase asthmatic responses. This highlights the importance of considering foods as aeroallergens in children with coexistent food allergy and allergic asthma. For these children, dietary avoidance alone may not be sufficient and further environmental measures may be required to limit exposure to aerosolized food.