Cockroach exposure and childhood asthma: Is the effect an artifact of confounding by stress?
Background Nonpharmacologic interventions for asthma management rely on identification and mitigation of important asthma triggers. Cockroach exposure is strongly associated with asthma morbidity. It is also associated with stress, another risk factor for asthma. Despite high prevalence of both in vulnerable populations, the impact of joint exposure has not been examined. Methods Participants included 173 children with asthma in New Orleans, Louisiana. Cockroach exposure was based on visual
... based on visual inspection using standard protocols. Caregiver stress was measured using Cohen's 4-item Perceived Stress Scale. Outcomes included unscheduled clinic or emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalization, and pulmonary function. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to assess independent effects of the exposure on the outcome and effect modification was examined in stratified analysis based on stress. Path analysis to explore the mediation effect by stress was performed using a probit link with parameters based on Bayes' method with non-informative priors. Results Adjusting for stress and other covariates, cockroach exposure was associated with unscheduled clinic/ED visits (aOR = 6.2; 95% CI 1.8, 21.7). Positive associations were also found for hospitalization and FEV1 < 80%. High stress modified the relationship with unscheduled clinic/ED visits (high aOR = 7.7 95% CI 1.0, 60.2, versus normal aOR = 4.1 95% CI 0.8, 21.9). Path models identified direct and indirect effects (p = 0.05) indicating that a majority of the total effect on unscheduled clinic/ED visits is attributed directly to cockroach exposure. Conclusion The strong association between cockroach exposure and asthma morbidity is not due to uncontrolled confounding by stress. The combination of cockroach exposure and high stress, common in urban homes, are modifiable factors associated with poor asthma outcomes.