According to a newly released study from the University of Arizona, published online in the journal Pediatrics, having a lower respiratory illness like pneumonia within the first three years of life exposes children to a greater risk of asthma later. In fact, children who had had these illnesses were twice as likely than children who hadn't to be diagnosed with asthma and wheeze as adults.
Using data from the longitudinal Tucson Children's Respiratory Study, collected from 1246 healthy infants between 1980 and 1984, the researchers compared the lung function of 338 children who had experienced lower respiratory illnesses before age 3 and 308 who hadn't. The children who had respiratory illnesses had nearly twice the risk of developing asthma by age 26. Long-lasting effects of these diseases on lung function were also discovered, with the children who had been sick at an early age displaying many more signs of decreased lung function, such as active wheezing and low forced expiratory volume (FEV, a common way of measuring lung capacity in asthma sufferers).
According to lead study author Johnny Y.C. Chan, MBChB, of Kwong Wah Hospital in Hong Kong and Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, "Radiologically ascertained pneumonia before age 3 years is associated with asthma and impaired airway function that is only partially reversible with bronchodilators and that persists into adult life. Because there is considerable evidence that asthma associated with airflow limitation is a strong risk factor for subsequent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the prevention of early-life pneumonia and of the factors that determine low lung function in infancy may contribute significantly to decrease the public health burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
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