March 11, 2015
1 min read

Early childhood pneumonia may increase risk for asthma in adulthood

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Children diagnosed with pneumonia in the first 3 years of life may face a greater risk for asthma and impaired lung function, including COPD, in adulthood, according to study results.

“This supports the idea that the roots of chronic illness in adult life may be the events that occur in early life,” researcher Fernando D. Martinez, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona, said in a press release. “We have shown that when you have a severe episode of pneumonia in early life there are consequences, such as lower levels of lung function and respiratory symptoms.”

Martinez and colleagues analyzed the Tucson Children’s Respiratory Study where lower respiratory illnesses (LRIs) during the first 3 years of life were confirmed by pediatricians in 1,246 healthy infants enrolled from 1980 to 1984. Spirometry was conducted when participants were aged 11, 16, 22, and 26 years. Occurrence of asthma or wheeze during the previous year was analyzed in participants aged 11, 13, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26, and 29 years.

Early pneumonia correlated with lower prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) (P = .033) and FEV1/FVC ratio (P < .001) up to participants aged 26 years. Early pneumonia also was linked with a lower postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio (P = .001).

Participants with pneumonia in their first 3 years of life had a higher risk for active physician-diagnosed asthma (OR = 1.95; 95% CI, 1.11-3.44) and wheeze (OR = 1.94; 95% CI, 1.28-2.95) during the past year up to age 29 years compared with those with no LRI during early life.

“The risk remains that the outcome for many will not be as good, which suggests that we should focus on preventing negative events like pneumonia in early life in order to prevent chronic respiratory illness in adult life,” Martinez said in the release. –by Ryan McDonald

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.