A fascinating research study examining potential root causes of asthma in children has determined a link between use of household cleaning products in early life and childhood respiratory and allergic disease.

The study—“Association of use of cleaning products with respiratory health in a Canadian birth cohort”—used data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Cohort Study.

The work, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, concludes: “Frequent use of household cleaning products in early life was associated with an increased risk for childhood wheeze and asthma but not atopy at age 3 years. Our findings add to the understanding of how early life exposures to cleaning products may be associated with the development of allergic airway disease and help to identify household behaviours as a potential area for intervention.”

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood, affecting 12.5% of children, according to Asthma Canada. Untreated or undertreated it can lead to severe respiratory disease and other significant health complications.

There are two triggers—allergic and non-allergic—that can lead to the sudden tightening of airway muscles, requiring varying levels of treatment.

This latest study is significant because “the prevalence of childhood asthma has steadily increased over the past several decades and is now a leading cause of childhood chronic disease and admissions to hospital in developed countries, making it a priority for clinicians, researchers and the public. The first months of life are critical for the development of the immune and respiratory systems.  By identifying hazardous exposures and behaviours during infancy, preventive measures could be implemented to potentially reduce childhood asthma and allergy risk.”

Research shows asthma develops in early life and progresses over time.  As well, more Canadians are being diagnosed with asthma. Preventative efforts are essential, as are evolving treatment protocols, such as targeted biologic therapies.

Click here to read the CMAJ summary of the research and recommendations.