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Allergy Today News Bite: Animal hair found in classrooms risks asthma attacks

AT June 2019 Associate Professor Rob Siebers-135-489A study into allergens in school classrooms found a pleasingly low level of peanut and dust-mite allergens, but a high prevalence of animal hair, which could trigger asthma attacks in children.

A study has found a high prevalence of animal hair in primary school classrooms, which may trigger children’s asthma attacks.

The He Kura Asthma study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, involved collecting floor dust samples from 136 classrooms in 12 primary schools around the country.

Lead author associate professor Rob Siebers said a quarter of classroom carpets had high enough levels of cat dander, produced in cat saliva and sebaceous glands, to potentially cause respiratory symptoms in cat-sensitised children. Cow and horse allergens were also common.

He said the cat allergens were most likely due to passive transfer from children’s clothing, as there are generally no cats on school premises.

Despite New Zealand having some of the highest levels of house-dust mite allergens in the world, the researchers found levels to be relatively low in the classrooms.

Only one of the classrooms had measurable levels of peanut allergen, but these were also at such a low level as to be barely detectable.

Professor Siebers says this was likely a result of most parents following school guidelines on avoiding peanut products in children’s lunches.

“We believe adherence to this advice, plus frequent classroom vacuuming has resulted in the virtual absence of peanut allergen exposure in our study.”

Researchers recommended better cleaning practices and smoother flooring options, as opposed to carpet, in all schools to help reduce allergic reactions or asthma attacks in a school environment.

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Mark Dixon endorsed the removal of carpets in schools, saying it was common sense given the amount of dirt and smells that stay buried in carpet.

He said it was surprising the study found a low level of dust mites and peanuts in classrooms, given how common those allergies were in New Zealand.

“This is pleasing to hear. The messages are getting through,” Dixon said.

Read more: Animal hair in classrooms triggering children’s asthma attacks and Indoor allergen exposure in primary school classrooms in New Zealand

June 2019