Tucking up children in dust mite-proof bedding may help reduce severe asthma attacks and prevent frightening and costly hospital admissions, suggests new UK research.
The study – by researchers from Manchester and London – saw more than 280 young asthma patients take part in randomised controlled trial to test the mite-proof covers.
“A single exacerbation can increase the annual cost of treating asthma by three-fold”
The children, aged three to 17 years old, were enrolled in the year-long study after experiencing a severe attack requiring treatment in accident and emergency or admission to one of 14 hospitals in North West England.
All the children also tested positive for dust mite allergy – one of the most common asthma triggers.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, saw participants’ mattresses, duvets and pillows encased in new covers with 146 getting the special mite-proof covers and the remaining 138 being given “placebo” covers.
Crucially, none of the children, investigators or health professionals involved in children’s care knew which type of covers each child was using.
Lead author Dr Clare Murray, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Manchester and the Royal Manchester Children’s hospital, explained the importance of identifying effective ways to reduce asthma flare-ups responsible for a high proportion of hospital admissions among children.
“Asthma exacerbations are among the most common reasons for hospitalising children living in the developed world,” she said.
“It is a frightening experience for children and their parents, and a single exacerbation can increase the annual cost of treating asthma by three-fold,” she added.
The study – believed to be the first of its kind – found children sleeping with the mite-proof covers were less likely to have a severe exacerbation that resulted in them going to A&E or being admitted.
During the study period, 29.3% of children using the mite-proof covers attended hospital with one or more severe attacks, compared with 41.5% of the control group.
Overall, the study found a 45% reduced risk of a hospital visit and the children needing systemic corticosteroids to help relieve asthma symptoms.
However, the mite-proof covers did not seem to reduce asthma flare-ups that could be safely treated with an inhaler at home.
Mite-proof covers reduce asthma related hospital visits
“It may be that the bedcovers did not prevent the exacerbation, but did reduce its severity,” said Dr Murray.
The researchers concluded that the covers, which cost around £130 each, were effective when it came to reducing hospital admissions.
There was some evidence they worked better for certain groups of children, such as those living in non-smoking households who were only allergic to dust mites, although the team said more research was needed.
“This simple measure may reduce asthmatic exacerbations that lead to emergency department visits or hospitalisation, particularly in young children who are allergic only to dust mites,” said Dr Murray.
The study was funded by the JP Moulton Charitable Foundation and supported by the North West Lung Centre Charity.