Mono and multifaceted allergen reducing interventions for the primary prevention of asthma in children at high risk of developing asthma

It is possible that early exposure to allergens (substances which cause allergy) may lead to development of asthma in high risk children. This review asks whether the risk of developing asthma, which is a disease caused by many factors, can be decreased by reducing single allergen levels in children with genetic susceptibility, or whether the reduction of more than one type of allergen exposure simultaneously will lead to a better outcome. As a direct comparison could not be made using current research we made indirect comparisons using trials that had compared single or multiple interventions with a control. In children who are at risk of developing childhood asthma 'multifaceted' interventions, which involve both dietary allergen reduction and environmental change to reduce exposure to inhaled allergens, reduce the odds of a doctor diagnosing asthma later in childhood by half. However, the effect of these multifaceted interventions on wheeze reported by parents was inconsistent and there was no beneficial effect on night-time coughing or breathlessness. Single ('monofaceted') interventions were not significantly more effective than controls in the reduction of all outcomes, but there remains uncertainty as to whether multiple interventions are more effective than single component interventions.

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.

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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 (January 2011).

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.