YOU ARE EXPLORING

Areas of Expertise

The Pulmonary Inflammation, Asthma and Allergic Diseases research group consists of nationally recognized professionals with a breadth of multidisciplinary expertise in pediatric medicine, developmental biology, dermatology, microbiology and immunology.

Investigators within the research group employ their expertise to advance scientific understanding of lung development and allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergy.

Lung Development and Function

Pulmonary, or lung-related, development begins in the womb, and the lungs continue to mature throughout early childhood. During this time, several factors can interfere with the maturation process, including premature birth, smoking during pregnancy or the function of other organs, such as the heart. Impaired lung function results in a decreased ability of the lungs to provide oxygen for the body, and an increased susceptibility to lung infections and other lung diseases.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is an allergic inflammation of the skin. It is one of the earliest allergic diseases to develop in children and is often the first step of the atopic march, a sequence of mild to severe allergic responses that occur at specific locations in the body. A child may develop atopic dermatitis as early as infancy, and approximately half of the children who experience atopic dermatitis go on to develop other types of allergic disease, such as asthma or food allergy.

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include redness, dryness and itching of the skin. Currently, the condition is treated with hydration and topical creams containing immune suppressive drugs, such as steroids.

Common causes of allergic reaction—called allergens—include pollen, dust mites or animal dander. Some food allergens are also linked to atopic dermatitis.

Asthma

Allergic asthma is a common chronic disease that results in inflammation of the lungs and airways. This inflammation leads to constriction of the airways and leads to difficulty breathing, chest pain and coughing. In some circumstances, a reaction can be life-threatening.

Currently, asthma is treated with inhaled steroids, beta-agonists, and inhibitors of other inflammatory pathways. Acute symptoms are treated with bronchodilators and severe reactions with epinephrine. There are no cures for asthma, and although many cases of the disease are well controlled, children die every year from severe asthma attacks.

Food Allergy

Food allergy develops when an allergic reaction occurs in the intestinal tract. Common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. Symptoms of a food allergy may include hives, itchiness and swelling—especially of the tongue, lips, face or throat. In severe cases, a reaction may include anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

As with other allergic reactions, symptoms range from mild to severe. The best method of prevention is avoidance of the known allergen. Current treatments include over-the-counter antihistamines for mild symptoms, and epinephrine for severe reactions.