The effects of early lung problems may extend into preadolescence, Norwegian researchers say. In a recent study, they found that problems with lung function in early infancy are associated with an increased risk of having asthma at 10 years of age. Asthma is a lung disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, making it difficult to breathe.
Researchers tracked the lung function of 616 healthy infants from birth to age 10. The kids underwent breathing tests, exercise testing, and allergy tests (people with allergies often have asthma, too) to check their lung function. Their parents also reported whether their children experienced symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Parents also noted whether the kids had ever been diagnosed with asthma or used asthma medications.
The results: 1 in 5 of the kids had a history of having asthma, and 11% currently had asthma at age 10. The 10-year-olds with asthma had significantly lower scores on lung function tests shortly after birth compared with kids without asthma. Those lower scores also predicted severe bronchial inflammation and the need for asthma medications at age 10.
What This Means to You
Kids who experience lung function problems early in life may be more likely to develop asthma, the results of this study suggest. This information may aid parents and doctors in identifying asthma symptoms and starting treatment in children at risk. If your child complains of coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath, talk to your doctor. If your child has severe shortness of breath, seek emergency medical treatment.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2006
Source: Geir Haland, MD; Karin C. Lodrup Carlsen, MD, PhD; Leiv Sandvik, PhD; Chandra Sekhar Devulapalli, MD; Monica Cheng Munthe-Kaas, MD; Morten Pettersen, MD; Kai-Hakon Carlsen, MD, PhD; New England Journal of Medicine, October 19, 2006.