06 March 2012

Preemie babies at risk of developing asthma

Babies born just a few weeks early appear to face a greater risk of developing asthma when compared with children born at full term, new research reveals.


Babies born just a few weeks early appear to face a greater risk of developing asthma when compared with children born at full term, new research reveals.

The observation applied to infants born between the 34th and 37th week of pregnancy. One-quarter of such "late pre-term" babies ended up with an asthma diagnosis by the age of eight years, despite no prior indications of respiratory illness, the study team found. By contrast, just 15% of babies delivered after 37 weeks were found to develop asthma.

"About 10% of our babies are born at this [preterm] gestational age, and not much thought is given to their risk of asthma," study co-author Dr Gretchen Matthews, a paediatrician and neonatologist at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester, Minn., explained in a news release from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"What this shows us is that late pre-term birth puts children at additional risk for asthma, and so we should initiate diagnosis earlier and maybe take preventive measures earlier," Matthews added. "It wasn't appreciated that this (late pre-term) population was different. We can have a huge impact on asthma."

Asthmatic kids miss school often

Given that each year asthma attacks cause US children to miss an estimated 14 million days of school, the Mayo Clinic team said that getting a better handle on factors related to improving early diagnosis could ultimately boost childhood quality of life, while also helping to hold down medical costs. The United States spends about $18 billion a year to treat and manage asthma, according to the AAAAI.

"If we can identify those children that are getting this at an earlier age, we can prevent missed days of school, missed parent workdays, perhaps even prevent some hospitalisations or hospital visits," said Matthews.

While the study uncovered an association between late pre-term delivery and asthma in childhood, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.

Read more:
What to do in an asthma emergency

More information

For more on childhood asthma, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

(Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

This article has not necessarily been edited by Health24.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules