Mono and multifaceted inhalant and/or food allergen reduction interventions for preventing asthma in children at high risk of developing asthma

T. Maas, J. Kaper, A. Sheikh, J. A. Knottnerus, G. Wesseling, E. Dompeling, J. W. M. Muris, C. P. van Schayck

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review



Allergen exposure is one of the environmental factors seemingly associated with the development of asthma. If asthma is a multi-factorial disease, it is hypothesised that prevention might only prove effective if most or all relevant environmental factors are simultaneously avoided.


To assess effect(s) of monofaceted and multifaceted interventions compared with control interventions in preventing asthma and asthma symptoms in high risk children.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Airways Trials Register (December 2008).

Selection criteria

Randomised controlled trials of allergen exposure reduction for the primary prevention of asthma in children. Interventions were multifaceted (reducing exposure to both inhalant and food allergens) or monofaceted (reducing exposure to either inhalant or food allergens) Follow up had to be from birth (or during pregnancy) up to a minimum of two years of age.

Data collection and analysis

We included in the analysis studies assessing the primary outcome (current diagnosis: asthma) and/or one of the secondary outcomes (current respiratory symptoms: wheezing, nocturnal coughing and dyspnoea). We pooled multifaceted and monofaceted intervention trials separately. We made an indirect comparison of their effects using tests for interaction to calculate relative odds ratios.

Main results

We included three multifaceted and six monofaceted intervention studies (3271 children). Physician diagnosed asthma in children less than five years, and asthma as defined by respiratory symptoms and lung function criteria in children aged five years and older, both favoured treatment with a multifaceted intervention compared to usual care (< 5 years: odds ratio (OR) 0.72, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.54 to 0.96, and > 5 years: OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.85). However, there was no significant difference in outcome between monofaceted intervention and control interventions (< 5 years: OR 1.12, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.64, and > 5 years: OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.16). Indirect comparison between these treatments did not demonstrate a significant difference between multiple interventions and mono-interventions in reducing the frequency of asthma diagnosis in children under five years (relative OR 0.64 (95% CI 0.40 to 1.04, P = 0.07) or five years and older (relative OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.13, P = 0.12). There was also no significant difference between either mono- and multifaceted intervention and control in reducing the likelihood of symptoms of nocturnal coughing at follow up. Wheezing, however, showed a significant difference between multifaceted and mono- interventions (relative OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.99, P = 0.04), but the significance was lost when data on treatment only was analysed.

Authors' conclusions

The available evidence suggests that the reduction of exposure to multiple allergens compared to usual care reduces the likelihood of a current diagnosis of asthma in children (at ages < 5 years and 5 years and older). Mono-intervention studies have not produced effects which are statistically significant compared with control. In children who are at risk of developing childhood asthma, multifaceted interventions, characterised by dietary allergen reduction and environmental remediation, reduce the odds of a physician diagnosis of asthma later in childhood by half. This translates to a number needed to treat (NNT) of 17. The effect of multi-faceted interventions on parent reported wheeze was inconsistent and had no significant impact on nocturnal coughing or dyspnoea. Data from monofaceted intervention exposed children studies were not significantly different from those of control groups for all outcomes. There remains uncertainty as to whether multiple interventions are more effective than mono- component interventions. The comparisons made were indirect, making the conclusions drawn uncertain. To our knowledge there are no ongoing studies in which both intervention strategies are randomly compared. The findings, however, warrant further direct comparison between multiple- and monofaceted interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of asthma in children.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD006480
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages67
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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