A new analysis of existing research suggests that premature
babies face a higher risk of developing
asthma and wheezing
disorders when they're older.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Maastricht University Medical Centre
in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland examined 30
studies that included about 1.5 million children.
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They found that premature children (born before 37 weeks of gestation) were
46% more likely to develop asthma or wheezing problems than kids who weren't
born prematurely. Full-term
birth is generally considered about 40 weeks' gestation.
Very premature children (those born before 32 weeks' gestation) faced an
even higher estimated risk almost three times that of children born at full
term, said Jasper Been, from Maastricht University, and his colleagues.
About 11% of children are born prematurely, the study authors said in the
report, which was published in the online edition of the journal PLoS
"The current findings do not support prior suggestions that the
association between preterm birth and wheezing disorders becomes less prominent
with increasing age," the researchers wrote in the report. "Instead,
the strength of the association was similar across age groups [up to 18
years]," which suggests that the effects of preterm birth on the lungs
tend to have life-long consequences.
Although the study found an association between premature birth and
respiratory problems such as asthma later in life, it did not prove a
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