Asthma Begins in Infancy

Newborn lung health associated with childhood asthma development.

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Asthma may have its beginnings in cute babies. In a new study, the development of asthma in children was associated with their lung health as newborns.

Newborn lung function deficits were a strong predictor of children developing asthma by the age of seven. These early lung problems developed with the child ultimately leading to the development of asthma.

Intervention programs could target newborn lung function deficits to reduce the risk of a child developing asthma.

"Ask your doctor about the best ways to help your child avoid asthma."

The study was led by Hans Bisgaard, M.D., D.M.Sci., professor of pediatrics at the University of Copenhagen. For the study, 411 newborns, whose mothers had asthma were monitored for seven years. Researchers used breathing tests to determine lung function. Lung function deficits as a newborn was strongly associated with the development of childhood asthma.

Out of the 411 children, 14 percent had developed asthma by the age of seven. For these asthmatic children, significantly decreased lung function was present as a newborn based on spirometry testing, a breathing test that measures how much air is exhaled in one second.

Methacholine, a synthetic chemical compound, was used to test for bronchial sensitivity which causes the airways to narrow leading to reduced airflow. Among children who had developed asthma, as newborns there was significant bronchial sensitivity.

Bronchial sensitivity was a stronger indicator of asthma development than reduced lung function. For asthmatic children, 40 percent of the decreased lung function was associated with asthma was evident as a newborn based on the spirometry tests. Bronchial sensitivity was evident in 60 percent of newborns who later developed asthma as children.

According to researchers, instead of early inhaled corticosteroid use future research could focus on targeting asthma development in newborns. Study limitations included using a study group that featured participants who had the same risk factor, newborns with asthmatic mothers, which might make it difficult to apply these results to a larger population. 

Early lung health is a strong indicator of future lung disease such as asthma. Future studies can include a diverse group of participants as well as determine possible intervention programs that target newborn lung problems. 

No funding information was provided.

This study will be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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Review Date: 
April 2, 2012
Last Updated:
April 3, 2012