Preemies May Be at Risk for Wheezing

Preterm births associated with increased risk of childhood wheezing disorders

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Increasing numbers of children are surviving preterm births. But being born early can carry health risks even later in life, which may be the case with asthma and similar conditions.

A recent review of previous studies found that preterm birth was associated with an increased risk for asthma and wheezing disorders in childhood.

According to the authors of this review, further research is needed on the underlying reasons behind this association, as more and more children are surviving preterm birth worldwide.

"Tell a pulmonary doctor if your child was born preterm."

The lead author of this review was Jasper V. Been from the Department of Pediatrics in the Maastricht University Medical Centre in Maastricht, Netherlands.

The review included 30 previously published studies on the link between preterm birth and wheezing disorders, including asthma.

Preterm birth was defined as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

All of the studies were published between January 1, 1995 and September 23, 2013. A total of 1,543,639 participants were born in 1990 or after.

The findings showed that 93,616 participants were born preterm. Of this group, 12,858 participants (14 percent) were diagnosed with a wheezing disorder.

There were 1,407,300 participants who were not born preterm. Of this group, 116,732 participants (8 percent) were diagnosed with a wheezing disorder.

When adjusted for variables such as demographics and lifestyle habits, the risk of a wheezing disorder for preterm participants was 46 percent higher than the risk of those who were not born preterm.

The findings revealed that the risk was significantly higher in the participants who were born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. These participants were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a wheezing disorder than those who were born after 32 weeks.

The researchers estimated that the risk of wheezing disorders would be decreased by 3 percent if none of the participants had been born preterm.

The authors noted a few limitations of their study. First, there was very little data from low- and middle-income countries. Second, individual risks in each study may not have accounted for all necessary variables.

This review was published on January 28 in PLoS Medicine.

Maastricht University Medical Center and the International Pediatric Research Foundation provided funding.

Review Date: 
January 28, 2014
Last Updated:
January 29, 2014