Use of buckwheat husk pillows linked to childhood nocturnal asthma


WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Small amounts of buckwheat flour attached to buckwheat husk pillows may induce sensitization to buckwheat and nocturnal asthma in children, Korean researchers report in the August issue of Allergy.

Dr. Soo-Young Lee from Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, South Korea, and colleagues report three cases of children whose nocturnal asthma symptoms were found to result from exposure to buckwheat chaff-stuffed pillows. Many Korean children and adults use such pillows "as a traditional means to improve health and intelligence," the researchers note.

The patients included a 5-year-old boy who had nighttime wheeze and cough that developed 6 months after using a buckwheat chaff-stuffed pillow, and a 7-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl whose symptoms were aggravated after exposure to such pillows.

"Interestingly, we found that a buckwheat chaff-stuffed pillow was the inducer of asthma in these three patients, who had been previously diagnosed as nonatopics, because of negative skin test results using test kits which excluded buckwheat flour antigen," Dr. Lee and colleagues note. On subsequent testing, all of the children had a positive skin reaction to buckwheat flour.

When the pillows were removed, nocturnal wheeze and awakening disappeared after the first day and cough disappeared gradually, Dr. Lee's group found.

"Buckwheat is a food allergen, an occupational allergen and…it may also be a hidden domestic allergen," Drs. G. Wieslander and D. Norbהck from Uppsala University, Sweden comment in a journal editorial.

To estimate the risk of buckwheat allergy, "epidemiologic studies are needed, particularly in subgroups with a high consumption of buckwheat food or use of buckwheat husk pillows," Drs. Wieslander and Norbהck conclude.

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