NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Cetirizine may delay or prevent asthma in infants with atopic dermatitis who are sensitized to grass pollen or to house dust mite, according to results from the Early Treatment of the Atopic Child study.
Dr. John O. Warner, from the University of Southampton, UK, and colleagues randomly assigned 795 infants with atopic dermatitis, 1 to 2 years of age, to cetirizine, 0.25 mg/kg twice daily, or placebo for 18 months followed by 18 months of followup.
Intention to treat analysis of the more than 500 children who remained in the trial for 3 years, revealed that regardless of the treatment they received, there was no statistically significant difference in the number who developed asthma. Among children in the cetirizine group 52.0% developed asthma as did 50.4% in the placebo group (p = 0.707, log-rank test), the study group reports.
However, among children sensitized to grass pollen and to house dust mite, those who received cetirizine were significantly less likely to develop asthma than children receiving placebo (p = 0.005 and 0.002, respectively). In the case of grass pollen, the effect of cetirizine treatment lasted for the additional 18 months of followup (p = 0.008), the researchers found.
In their report in the December 2001 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the investigators write, "This is the first study to suggest that in a subgroup of children with atopic dermatitis who were sensitized to grass pollen, it is possible to truly delay or perhaps even prevent the development of asthma."
Dr. Warner and colleagues conclude that "it will also be of interest to study whether cetirizine will have any effect in preventing asthma in children from other high-risk groups."