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Background: Wheezing occurs in both atopic and non-atopic children. The characteristics of atopic and non-atopic wheeze in children at 10 years of age were assessed and attempts made to identify whether different mechanisms underlie these states.
Methods: Children were seen at birth and at 1, 2, 4 and 10 years of age in a whole population birth cohort study (n = 1456; 1373 seen at 10 years). Information was collected prospectively on inherited and early life environmental risk factors for wheezing. Skin prick testing, spirometry, and methacholine bronchial challenge were conducted at 10 years. Wheezing at 10 years of age was considered atopic or non-atopic depending on the results of the skin prick test. Independent significant risk factors for atopic and non-atopic wheeze were determined by logistic regression.
Results: Atopic (10.9%) and non-atopic (9.7%) wheeze were equally common at 10 years of age. Greater bronchial hyperresponsiveness (p<0.001) and airways obstruction (p = 0.011) occurred in children with atopic wheeze than in those with non-atopic wheeze at 10 years. Children with atopic wheeze more often received treatment (p<0.001) or an asthma diagnosis for their disorder, although current morbidity at 10 years differed little for these states. Maternal asthma and recurrent chest infections at 2 years were independently significant factors for developing non-atopic wheeze. For atopic wheeze, sibling asthma, eczema at 1 year, rhinitis at 4 years, and male sex were independently significant.
Conclusions: Non-atopic wheeze is as common as atopic wheeze in children aged 10 years, but treatment is more frequent in those with atopic wheeze. Different risk factor profiles appear relevant to the presence of atopic and non-atopic wheeze at 10 years of age.