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1.  Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001596.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Jasper Been and colleagues investigate the association between preterm birth and the development of wheezing disorders in childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Accumulating evidence implicates early life factors in the aetiology of non-communicable diseases, including asthma/wheezing disorders. We undertook a systematic review investigating risks of asthma/wheezing disorders in children born preterm, including the increasing numbers who, as a result of advances in neonatal care, now survive very preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
Two reviewers independently searched seven online databases for contemporaneous (1 January 1995–23 September 2013) epidemiological studies investigating the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders. Additional studies were identified through reference and citation searches, and contacting international experts. Quality appraisal was undertaken using the Effective Public Health Practice Project instrument. We pooled unadjusted and adjusted effect estimates using random-effects meta-analysis, investigated “dose–response” associations, and undertook subgroup, sensitivity, and meta-regression analyses to assess the robustness of associations.
We identified 42 eligible studies from six continents. Twelve were excluded for population overlap, leaving 30 unique studies involving 1,543,639 children. Preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of wheezing disorders in unadjusted (13.7% versus 8.3%; odds ratio [OR] 1.71, 95% CI 1.57–1.87; 26 studies including 1,500,916 children) and adjusted analyses (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.29–1.65; 17 studies including 874,710 children). The risk was particularly high among children born very preterm (<32 wk gestation; unadjusted: OR 3.00, 95% CI 2.61–3.44; adjusted: OR 2.81, 95% CI 2.55–3.12). Findings were most pronounced for studies with low risk of bias and were consistent across sensitivity analyses. The estimated population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was ≥3.1%.
Key limitations related to the paucity of data from low- and middle-income countries, and risk of residual confounding.
There is compelling evidence that preterm birth—particularly very preterm birth—increases the risk of asthma. Given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions.
Review Registration
PROSPERO CRD42013004965
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but worldwide, more than 11% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Preterm birth is a major cause of infant death—more than 1 million babies die annually from preterm birth complications—and the number of preterm births is increasing globally. Multiple pregnancies, infections, and chronic (long-term) maternal conditions such as diabetes can all cause premature birth, but the cause of many preterm births is unknown. The most obvious immediate complication that is associated with preterm birth is respiratory distress syndrome. This breathing problem, which is more common in early preterm babies than in near-term babies, occurs because the lungs of premature babies are structurally immature and lack pulmonary surfactant, a unique mixture of lipids and proteins that coats the inner lining of the lungs and helps to prevent the collapse of the small air sacs in the lungs that absorb oxygen from the air. Consequently, preterm babies often need help with their breathing and oxygen supplementation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in the management of prematurity mean that more preterm babies survive today than in the past. However, accumulating evidence suggests that early life events are involved in the subsequent development of non-communicable diseases (non-infectious chronic diseases). Given the increasing burden of preterm birth, a better understanding of the long-term effects of preterm birth is essential. Here, the researchers investigate the risks of asthma and wheezing disorders in children who are born preterm by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies). Asthma is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation of the airways. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur and to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can sometimes be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing), coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 studies undertaken between 1995 and the present (a time span chosen to allow for recent changes in the management of prematurity) that investigated the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in more than 1.5 million children. Across the studies, 13.7% of preterm babies developed asthma/wheezing disorders during childhood, compared to only 8.3% of babies born at term. Thus, the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.71 times higher than the risk of term babies developing these conditions (an unadjusted odds ratio [OR] of 1.71). In analyses that allowed for confounding factors—other factors that affect the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders such as maternal smoking—the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.46 times higher than that of babies born at term (an adjusted OR of 1.46). Notably, compared to children born at term, children born very early (before 32 weeks of gestation) had about three times the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Finally, the population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was more than 3.1%. That is, if no preterm births had occurred, there would have been more than a 3.1% reduction in childhood wheezing disorders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings strongly suggest that preterm birth increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood and that the risk of asthma/wheezing disorders increases as the degree of prematurity increases. The accuracy of these findings may be affected, however, by residual confounding. That is, preterm children may share other, unknown characteristics that increase their risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders. Moreover, the generalizability of these findings is limited by the lack of data from low- and middle-income countries. However, given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, these findings highlight the need to undertake research into the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders and the need to develop appropriate preventative and therapeutic measures.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
Nemours, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information (in English and Spanish) on premature babies and on asthma (including personal stories)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about premature labor and birth and a real story about having a preterm baby; it provides information about asthma in children (including real stories)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on preterm birth, asthma, asthma in children, and wheezing (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to further information on premature birth, asthma, and asthma in children (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3904844  PMID: 24492409
2.  Prenatal Psychobiological Predictors of Anxiety Risk in Preadolescent Children 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2012;37(8):1224-1233.
Experimental animal models have demonstrated that one of the primary consequences of prenatal stress is increased fear and anxiety in the offspring. Few prospective human studies have evaluated the consequences of prenatal stress on anxiety during preadolescence. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the consequences of prenatal exposure to both maternal biological stress signals and psychological distress on anxiety in preadolescent children. Participants included 178 mother-child pairs. Maternal psychological distress (general anxiety, perceived stress, depression and pregnancy-specific anxiety) and biological stress signals were evaluated at 19, 25, and 31 gestational weeks. Anxiety was evaluated in the children at 6 to 9 years of age using the Child Behavior Checklist. Analyses revealed that prenatal exposure to elevated maternal cortisol, depression, perceived stress and pregnancy-specific anxiety was associated with increased anxiety in children. These associations remained after considering obstetric, sociodemographic and postnatal maternal psychological distress; factors that could influence child development. When all of the prenatal measures were considered together, cortisol and pregnancy-specific anxiety independently predicted child anxiety. Children exposed to elevated prenatal maternal cortisol and pregnancy-specific anxiety were at an increased risk for developing anxiety problems during the preadolescent period. This project identifies prenatal risk factors associated with lasting consequences for child mental health and raises the possibility that reducing maternal distress during the prenatal period will have long term benefits for child well-being.
PMCID: PMC3356791  PMID: 22265195
anxiety; development; fetal programming; prenatal; cortisol; stress; pregnancy
3.  Effects of BMI, Fat Mass, and Lean Mass on Asthma in Childhood: A Mendelian Randomization Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001669.
In this study, Granell and colleagues used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and found that higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Observational studies have reported associations between body mass index (BMI) and asthma, but confounding and reverse causality remain plausible explanations. We aim to investigate evidence for a causal effect of BMI on asthma using a Mendelian randomization approach.
Methods and Findings
We used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ y in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). A weighted allele score based on 32 independent BMI-related single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was derived from external data, and associations with BMI, fat mass, lean mass, and asthma were estimated. We derived instrumental variable (IV) estimates of causal risk ratios (RRs). 4,835 children had available data on BMI-associated SNPs, asthma, and BMI. The weighted allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass (all p-values<0.001) and with childhood asthma (RR 2.56, 95% CI 1.38–4.76 per unit score, p = 0.003). The estimated causal RR for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 (95% CI 1.16–2.07) per kg/m2, p = 0.003. This effect appeared stronger for non-atopic (1.90, 95% CI 1.19–3.03) than for atopic asthma (1.37, 95% CI 0.89–2.11) though there was little evidence of heterogeneity (p = 0.31). The estimated causal RRs for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 (95% CI 1.11–1.79) per 0.5 kg and 2.25 (95% CI 1.23–4.11) per kg, respectively. The possibility of genetic pleiotropy could not be discounted completely; however, additional IV analyses using FTO variant rs1558902 and the other BMI-related SNPs separately provided similar causal effects with wider confidence intervals. Loss of follow-up was unlikely to bias the estimated effects.
Higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood. Higher BMI may have contributed to the increase in asthma risk toward the end of the 20th century.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The global burden of asthma, a chronic (long-term) condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs), has been rising steadily over the past few decades. It is estimated that, nowadays, 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma. Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke, becoming narrower so that less air can enter the lungs. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
We cannot halt the ongoing rise in global asthma rates without understanding the causes of asthma. Some experts think obesity may be one cause of asthma. Obesity, like asthma, is increasingly common, and observational studies (investigations that ask whether individuals exposed to a suspected risk factor for a condition develop that condition more often than unexposed individuals) in children have reported that body mass index (BMI, an indicator of body fat calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared) is positively associated with asthma. Observational studies cannot prove that obesity causes asthma because of “confounding.” Overweight children with asthma may share another unknown characteristic (confounder) that actually causes both obesity and asthma. Moreover, children with asthma may be less active than unaffected children, so they become overweight (reverse causality). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to assess whether BMI has a causal effect on asthma. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if a higher BMI leads to asthma, genetic variants associated with increased BMI should be associated with an increased risk of asthma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in 4,835 children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, a long-term health project that started in 1991). They calculated an allele score for each child based on 32 BMI-related genetic variants, and estimated associations between this score and BMI, fat mass and lean mass (both measured using a special type of X-ray scanner; in children BMI is not a good indicator of “fatness”), and asthma. They report that the allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass, and with childhood asthma. The estimated causal relative risk (risk ratio) for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 per kg/m2. That is, the relative risk of asthma increased by 55% for every extra unit of BMI. The estimated causal relative risks for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 per 0.5 kg and 2.25 per kg, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood and that global increases in BMI toward the end of the 20th century may have contributed to the global increase in asthma that occurred at the same time. It is possible that the observed association between BMI and asthma reported in this study is underpinned by “genetic pleiotropy” (a potential limitation of all Mendelian randomization analyses). That is, some of the genetic variants included in the BMI allele score could conceivably also increase the risk of asthma. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that public health interventions designed to reduce obesity may also help to limit the global rise in asthma.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma and on all aspects of overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on asthma and on obesity (in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obesity (including real stories)
The Global Asthma Report 2011 is available
The Global Initiative for Asthma released its updated Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention on World Asthma Day 2014
Information about the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on obesity in children, on asthma, and on asthma in children (in English and Spanish
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4077660  PMID: 24983943
4.  Maternal anxiety and infants' hippocampal development: timing matters 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(9):e306-.
Exposure to maternal anxiety predicts offspring brain development. However, because children's brains are commonly assessed years after birth, the timing of such maternal influences in humans is unclear. This study aimed to examine the consequences of antenatal and postnatal exposure to maternal anxiety upon early infant development of the hippocampus, a key structure for stress regulation. A total of 175 neonates underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at birth and among them 35 had repeated scans at 6 months of age. Maternal anxiety was assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) at week 26 of pregnancy and 3 months after delivery. Regression analyses showed that antenatal maternal anxiety did not influence bilateral hippocampal volume at birth. However, children of mothers reporting increased anxiety during pregnancy showed slower growth of both the left and right hippocampus over the first 6 months of life. This effect of antenatal maternal anxiety upon right hippocampal growth became statistically stronger when controlling for postnatal maternal anxiety. Furthermore, a strong positive association between postnatal maternal anxiety and right hippocampal growth was detected, whereas a strong negative association between postnatal maternal anxiety and the left hippocampal volume at 6 months of life was found. Hence, the postnatal growth of bilateral hippocampi shows distinct responses to postnatal maternal anxiety. The size of the left hippocampus during early development is likely to reflect the influence of the exposure to perinatal maternal anxiety, whereas right hippocampal growth is constrained by antenatal maternal anxiety, but enhanced in response to increased postnatal maternal anxiety.
PMCID: PMC3784768  PMID: 24064710
antenatal anxiety; hippocampus; magnetic resonance imaging; neonatal brain; postnatal anxiety
5.  Maternal Bereavement and Childhood Asthma—Analyses in Two Large Samples of Swedish Children 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27202.
Prenatal factors such as prenatal psychological stress might influence the development of childhood asthma.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We assessed the association between maternal bereavement shortly before and during pregnancy, as a proxy for prenatal stress, and the risk of childhood asthma in the offspring, based on two samples of children 1–4 (n = 426 334) and 7–12 (n = 493 813) years assembled from the Swedish Medical Birth Register. Exposure was maternal bereavement of a close relative from one year before pregnancy to child birth. Asthma event was defined by a hospital contact for asthma or at least two dispenses of inhaled corticosteroids or montelukast. In the younger sample we calculated hazards ratios (HRs) of a first-ever asthma event using Cox models and in the older sample odds ratio (ORs) of an asthma attack during 12 months using logistic regression. Compared to unexposed boys, exposed boys seemed to have a weakly higher risk of first-ever asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98, 1.22) as well as an asthma attack during 12 months at 7–12 years (OR: 1.10; 95% CI: 0.96, 1.24). No association was suggested for girls. Boys exposed during the second trimester had a significantly higher risk of asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.55; 95% CI: 1.19, 2.02) and asthma attack at 7–12 years if the bereavement was an older child (OR: 1.58; 95% CI: 1.11, 2.25). The associations tended to be stronger if the bereavement was due to a traumatic death compared to natural death, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Our results showed some evidence for a positive association between prenatal stress and childhood asthma among boys but not girls.
PMCID: PMC3210147  PMID: 22087265
6.  Impact of Maternal Mental Health on Pediatric Asthma Control 
Tanaffos  2013;12(4):23-27.
Asthma like other chronic diseases is a stressful condition not only for children but also for their parents. Caring for a child with asthma combines the demands of parenting with the emotional and physical burdens of the child's chronic illness. Some studies have assessed the relations between parental mental health and asthma severity in children. This study aims to evaluate the mental health of mothers of asthmatic children and associations between maternal mental health and childhood levels of asthma control.
Materials and Methods
Eighty mothers with asthmatic children aged 7-12 yrs. completed a General Health Questionnaire (GHQ.28) containing questions about somatic symptoms, anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression. Level of asthma control in children was classified as “well controlled”,” partly controlled” and “uncontrolled” by an asthma specialist.
The results showed that mothers of asthmatic children reported the depression symptoms significantly more than the community cut-off point (p<0.001); also GHQ scores were not significantly different in three levels of asthma control in children (i.e. well controlled, partly controlled and uncontrolled). The results revealed that caring for a child with asthma had an impact on the mother's mental health and depression was prevalent among mothers of asthmatic children. In addition, improving asthma control level did not promote maternal mental health.
Inclusion of mental health and quality of life of parents in the classification of pediatric asthma control may be helpful. Our findings suggest that the physician's awareness of maternal depression and the presence of a psychotherapist for diagnosing and treating depression in mothers of children with asthma may be important for guiding effective interventions.
PMCID: PMC4153262  PMID: 25191480
Mental health; Mother; Level of asthma control
7.  Association of Adenotonsillectomy with Asthma Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001753.
Rakesh Bhattacharjee and colleagues use data from a US private health insurance database to compare asthma severity measures in children one year before and one year after they underwent adenotonsillectomy with asthma measures in those who did not undergo adenotonsillectomy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both disorders of airway inflammation, were associated in recent observational studies. Although childhood OSA is effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (AT), it remains unclear whether AT also improves childhood asthma. We hypothesized that AT, the first line of therapy for childhood OSA, would be associated with improved asthma outcomes and would reduce the usage of asthma therapies in children.
Methods and Findings
Using the 2003–2010 MarketScan database, we identified 13,506 children with asthma in the United States who underwent AT. Asthma outcomes during 1 y preceding AT were compared to those during 1 y following AT. In addition, 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma without AT were included to examine asthma outcomes among children without known adenotonsillar tissue morbidity. Primary outcomes included the occurrence of a diagnostic code for acute asthma exacerbation (AAE) or acute status asthmaticus (ASA). Secondary outcomes included temporal changes in asthma medication prescriptions, the frequency of asthma-related emergency room visits (ARERs), and asthma-related hospitalizations (ARHs). Comparing the year following AT to the year prior, AT was associated with significant reductions in AAE (30.2%; 95% CI: 25.6%–34.3%; p<0.0001), ASA (37.9%; 95% CI: 29.2%–45.6%; p<0.0001), ARERs (25.6%; 95% CI: 16.9%–33.3%; p<0.0001), and ARHs (35.8%; 95% CI: 19.6%–48.7%; p = 0.02). Moreover, AT was associated with significant reductions in most asthma prescription refills, including bronchodilators (16.7%; 95% CI: 16.1%–17.3%; p<0.001), inhaled corticosteroids (21.5%; 95% CI: 20.7%–22.3%; p<0.001), leukotriene receptor antagonists (13.4%; 95% CI: 12.9%–14.0%; p<0.001), and systemic corticosteroids (23.7%; 95% CI: 20.9%–26.5%; p<0.001). In contrast, there were no significant reductions in these outcomes in children with asthma who did not undergo AT over an overlapping follow-up period. Limitations of the MarketScan database include lack of information on race and obesity status. Also, the MarketScan database does not include information on children with public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) or uninsured children.
In a very large sample of privately insured children, AT was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. Contingent on validation through prospectively designed clinical trials, this study supports the premise that detection and treatment of adenotonsillar tissue morbidity may serve as an important strategy for improving asthma control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The global burden of asthma has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Nowadays, about 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is one of the commonest chronic diseases in children. In the US, for example, asthma affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years and is the third leading cause of hospitalization of children under the age of 15 years. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have found an association between severe childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, airway inflammation promotes hypertrophy (excess growth) of the adenoids and the tonsils, immune system tissues in the upper airway. During sleep, the presence of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissues predisposes the walls of the throat to collapse, which results in apnea—a brief interruption in breathing. People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently wake from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Childhood OSA, which affects 2%–3% of children, can be effectively treated by removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy). Given the association between childhood OSA and severe asthma and given the involvement of airway inflammation in both conditions, might adenotonsillectomy also improve childhood asthma? Here, the researchers analyze data from the MarketScan database, a large database of US patients with private health insurance, to investigate whether adenotonsillectomy is associated with improvements in asthma outcomes and with reductions in the use of asthma therapies in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the database to identify 13,506 children with asthma who had undergone adenotonsillectomy and to obtain information about asthma outcomes among these children for the year before and the year after the operation. Because asthma severity tends to decrease with age, the researchers also used the database to identify 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma who did not have the operation so that they could examine asthma outcomes over an equivalent two-year period in the absence of complications related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy. Comparing the year after adenotonsillectomy with the year before the operation, adenotonsillectomy was associated with a 30% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations, a 37.9% reduction in acute status asthmaticus (an asthma attack that is unresponsive to the drugs usually used to treat attacks), a 25.6% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 35.8% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations. By contrast, among the control children, there was only a 2% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations and only a 7% reduction in acute status asthmaticus over an equivalent two-year period. Adenotonsillectomy was also associated with significant reductions (changes unlikely to have occurred by chance) in prescription refills for most types of drugs used to treat asthma, whereas there were no significant reductions in prescription refills among children with asthma who had not undergone adenotonsillectomy. The study was limited by the lack of measures of race and obesity, which are both associated with severity of asthma.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a large sample of privately insured children in the US, adenotonsillectomy was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. These results do not show, however, that adenotonsillectomy caused a reduction in the severity of childhood asthma. It could be that the children who underwent adenotonsillectomy (but not those who did not have the operation) shared another unknown factor that led to improvements in their asthma over time. To prove a causal link, it will be necessary to undertake a randomized controlled trial in which the outcomes of groups of children with asthma who are chosen at random to undergo or not undergo adenotonsillectomy are compared. However, with the proviso that there are some risks associated with adenotonsillectomy, these findings suggest that the detection and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy may help to improve asthma control in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma, including videos, games, and links to other resources for children with asthma
The American Lung Association provides detailed information about asthma and a fact sheet on asthma in children; it also has information about obstructive sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation provides information on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obstructive sleep apnea
The “Global Asthma Report 2014” will be available in October 2014
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on asthma, on asthma in children, on sleep apnea, and on tonsils and adenoids (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4219664  PMID: 25369282
8.  Prenatal and Postnatal Maternal Stress and Wheeze in Urban Children 
Rationale: Critical periods for programming early wheeze risk may include pregnancy and infancy. Effects of timing remain poorly understood.
Objectives: Associations among prenatal and postnatal maternal stress and children’s wheeze were prospectively examined in 653 families. Effect modification by maternal sensitization was also examined.
Methods: Stress was indexed by a maternal negative life events (NLEs) score (range, 0–9) ascertained during pregnancy and between 1 and 2 years postpartum. Mothers reported child wheeze every 3 months up to age 2 years. Relationships of prenatal and postnatal maternal NLEs with repeated wheeze (≥2 episodes) were examined using logistic regression adjusting for covariates. Penalized splines were implemented to explore possible nonlinear associations. We also examined the interaction between prenatal stress and maternal sensitization indexed by allergen-specific IgE from maternal prenatal serum.
Measurements and Main Results: Adjusted models considering prenatal or postnatal NLEs alone both showed an exposure-response relationship between higher stress and child wheeze. When considering prenatal and postnatal stress concurrently, only children of mothers with high stress in both periods were significantly more likely to wheeze (adjusted odds ratio, 3.04; 95% confidence interval, 1.67–5.53) than children of mothers reporting low stress in both periods. Associations between high prenatal stress and wheeze were significant in children born to nonsensitized mothers (any IgE <0.35 kU/L) but not in the sensitized group (P for interaction = 0.03).
Conclusions: Although children have heightened sensitivity to maternal stress in utero and in early childhood, those with higher stress in both periods were particularly at risk for wheeze. The prenatal maternal immune milieu modified effects.
PMCID: PMC3406080  PMID: 22582161
negative life events; stress; pregnancy; maternal sensitization; childhood wheeze
9.  Maternal late-pregnancy serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in relation to childhood wheeze and atopic outcomes 
Thorax  2012;67(11):950-956.
Studies exploring the relationship between prenatal vitamin D exposure and childhood asthma have yielded conflicting results. Higher vitamin D intake during pregnancy has been shown to lower the risk of childhood wheeze, yet a study of maternal late-pregnancy serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D suggested higher serum concentrations may be associated with increased childhood asthma.
To assess the relationship between mothers’ serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and asthma and wheeze phenotypes in their children at age 6 years. Secondly, to explore the relationship between maternal 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and objective measures of childhood atopy and lung function.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was measured at 34 weeks’ gestation in the mothers of 860 children born at term. Wheeze was classified as either transient or persistent/late using questionnaire data collated from 6, 12, 24 and 36 months and 6 years. At 6 years spirometry was performed and atopic status was determined by skin prick testing, exhaled nitric oxide was measured in 451 and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in 216 children.
There were no significant associations between maternal late-pregnancy 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and either asthma or wheeze at age 6 years. Maternal vitamin D status was not associated with transient or persistent/late wheeze; no significant association was found between persistent/late wheeze when subdivided according to atopic status. No associations were found with skin sensitisation or lung function.
This study provides no evidence that exposure to higher concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in maternal serum during late pregnancy increases the risk of childhood asthma, wheeze or atopy.
PMCID: PMC3679514  PMID: 22707522
asthma epidemiology; asthma; paediatric asthma
10.  Early-life Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and Pediatric Respiratory Symptoms in the CHAMACOS Cohort 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;123(2):179-185.
Background: Although pesticide use is widespread, the possible effect of early-life exposure to organophosphate (OP) on pediatric respiratory health is not well described.
Objectives: We investigated the relationship between early-life exposure to OPs and respiratory outcomes.
Methods: Participants included 359 mothers and children from the CHAMACOS birth cohort. Dialkyl phosphate (DAP) metabolites of OP pesticides, specifically diethyl (DE) and dimethyl (DM) phosphate metabolites, were measured in urine from mothers twice during pregnancy (mean = 13 and 26 weeks gestation) and from children five times during childhood (0.5–5 years). Childhood DAP concentrations were estimated by the area under curve (AUC). Mothers reported their child’s respiratory symptoms at 5 and 7 years of age. We used generalized estimating equations (GEE) to examine associations of prenatal and childhood DAP concentrations with repeated measures of respiratory symptoms and exercise-induced coughing at 5 and 7 years of age, adjusting for child’s sex and age, maternal smoking during pregnancy, secondhand tobacco smoke, season of birth, PM2.5, breastfeeding, mold and cockroaches in home, and distance from highway.
Results: Higher prenatal DAP concentrations, particularly DE, were nonsignificantly associated with respiratory symptoms in the previous 12 months at 5 or 7 years of age [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) per 10-fold increase = 1.44; 95% CI: 0.98, 2.12]. This association was strongest with total DAP and DE from the second half of pregnancy (aOR per 10-fold increase = 1.77; 95% CI: 1.06, 2.95; and 1.61; 95% CI: 1.08, 2.39, respectively). Childhood DAP, DE, and DM concentrations were associated with respiratory symptoms and exercise-induced coughing in the previous 12 months at 5 or 7 years of age (total DAPs: aOR per 10-fold increase = 2.53; 95% CI: 1.32, 4.86; and aOR = 5.40; 95% CI: 2.10, 13.91, respectively).
Conclusions: Early-life exposure to OP pesticides was associated with respiratory symptoms consistent with possible asthma in childhood.
Citation: Raanan R, Harley KG, Balmes JR, Bradman A, Lipsett M, Eskenazi B. 2015. Early-life exposure to organophosphate pesticides and pediatric respiratory symptoms in the CHAMACOS cohort. Environ Health Perspect 123:179–185;
PMCID: PMC4314248  PMID: 25369257
11.  Frequent use of chemical household products is associated with persistent wheezing in pre-school age children 
Thorax  2005;60(1):45-49.
Background: In the UK and other developed countries the prevalence of asthma symptoms has increased in recent years. This is likely to be the result of increased exposure to environmental factors. A study was undertaken to investigate the association between maternal use of chemical based products in the prenatal period and patterns of wheeze in early childhood.
Methods: In the population based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the frequency of use of 11 chemical based domestic products was determined from questionnaires completed by women during pregnancy and a total chemical burden (TCB) score was derived. Four mutually exclusive wheezing patterns were defined for the period from birth to 42 months based on parental questionnaire responses (never wheezed, transient early wheeze, persistent wheeze, and late onset wheeze). Multinomial logistic regression models were used to assess the relationship between these wheezing outcomes and TCB exposure while accounting for numerous potential confounding variables. Complete data for analysis was available for 7019 of 13 971 (50%) children.
Results: The mean (SD) TCB score was 9.4 (4.1), range 0–30. Increased use of domestic chemical based products was associated with persistent wheezing during early childhood (adjusted odds ratio (OR) per unit increase of TCB 1.06 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03 to 1.09)) but not with transient early wheeze or late onset wheeze. Children whose mothers had high TCB scores (>90th centile) were more than twice as likely to wheeze persistently throughout early childhood than children whose mothers had a low TCB score (<10th centile) (adjusted OR 2.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 4.4)).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that frequent use of chemical based products in the prenatal period is associated with persistent wheezing in young children. Follow up of this cohort is underway to determine whether TCB is associated with wheezing, asthma, and atopy at later stages in childhood.
PMCID: PMC1747149  PMID: 15618582
12.  Prenatal Treatment for Serious Neurological Sequelae of Congenital Toxoplasmosis: An Observational Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000351.
An observational study by Ruth Gilbert and colleagues finds that prenatal treatment of congenital toxoplasmosis could substantially reduce the proportion of infected fetuses that develop serious neurological sequelae.
The effectiveness of prenatal treatment to prevent serious neurological sequelae (SNSD) of congenital toxoplasmosis is not known.
Methods and Findings
Congenital toxoplasmosis was prospectively identified by universal prenatal or neonatal screening in 14 European centres and children were followed for a median of 4 years. We evaluated determinants of postnatal death or SNSD defined by one or more of functional neurological abnormalities, severe bilateral visual impairment, or pregnancy termination for confirmed congenital toxoplasmosis. Two-thirds of the cohort received prenatal treatment (189/293; 65%). 23/293 (8%) fetuses developed SNSD of which nine were pregnancy terminations. Prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD. The odds ratio for prenatal treatment, adjusted for gestational age at maternal seroconversion, was 0.24 (95% Bayesian credible intervals 0.07–0.71). This effect was robust to most sensitivity analyses. The number of infected fetuses needed to be treated to prevent one case of SNSD was three (95% Bayesian credible intervals 2–15) after maternal seroconversion at 10 weeks, and 18 (9–75) at 30 weeks of gestation. Pyrimethamine-sulphonamide treatment did not reduce SNSD compared with spiramycin alone (adjusted odds ratio 0.78, 0.21–2.95). The proportion of live-born infants with intracranial lesions detected postnatally who developed SNSD was 31.0% (17.0%–38.1%).
The finding that prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD in infected fetuses should be interpreted with caution because of the low number of SNSD cases and uncertainty about the timing of maternal seroconversion. As these are observational data, policy decisions about screening require further evidence from a randomized trial of prenatal screening and from cost-effectiveness analyses that take into account the incidence and prevalence of maternal infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Toxoplasmosis is a very common parasitic infection. People usually become infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, by eating raw or undercooked meat that contains the parasite, but it can also be contracted by drinking unfiltered water or by handling cat litter. Most people with toxoplasmosis never know they have the disease. However, if a pregnant woman becomes infected with T. gondii, she can transmit the parasite to her unborn baby (fetus). Overall, about a quarter of women who catch toxoplasmosis during pregnancy transmit the parasite to their fetus. If transmission occurs early during pregnancy, the resultant “congenital toxoplasmosis” increases the risk of miscarriage and the risk of the baby being born with brain damage, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, or developmental problems (“serious neurological sequelae”). In the worst cases, babies may be born dead or die soon after birth. Congenital toxoplasmosis caught during the final third of pregnancy may not initially cause any health problems but eyesight problems often develop later in life.
Why Was This Study Done?
Clinicians can find out if a woman has been infected with T. gondii during pregnancy by looking for parasite-specific antibodies (proteins made by the immune system that fight infections) in her blood. If the pattern of antibodies suggests a recent infection, the woman can be given spiramycin or pyrimethamine-sulfonamide, antibiotics that are thought to reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus and the severity of toxoplasmosis in infected fetuses. In some countries where toxoplasmosis is particularly common (for example, France), pregnant women are routinely screened for toxoplasmosis and treated with antibiotics if there are signs of recent infection. But is prenatal treatment an effective way to prevent the serious neurological sequelae or postnatal death (SNSD) associated with congenital toxoplasmosis? In this observational study, the researchers examine this question by studying a group of children identified as having congenital toxoplasmosis by prenatal or neonatal screening in six European countries. An observational study measures outcomes in a group of patients without trying to influence those outcomes by providing a specific treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers followed 293 children in whom congenital toxoplasmosis had been identified by prenatal screening (in France, Austria, and Italy) or by neonatal screening (in Denmark, Sweden, and Poland) for an average 4 years. Two-thirds of the children received prenatal treatment for toxoplasmosis and 23 fetuses (8% of the fetuses) developed SNSD; nine of these cases of SNSD were terminated during pregnancy. By comparing the number of cases of SNSD among children who received prenatal treatment with the number among children who did not receive prenatal treatment, the researchers estimate that prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD by three-quarters. They also estimate that to prevent one case of SNSD after maternal infection at 10 weeks of pregnancy, it would be necessary to treat three fetuses with confirmed infection. To prevent one case of SNSD after maternal infection at 30 weeks of pregnancy, 18 fetuses would need to be treated. Finally, the researchers report that the effectiveness of pyrimethamine-sulfonamide and spiramycin (which is less toxic) was similar, and that a third of live-born infants with brain damage that was detected after birth subsequently developed SNSD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that prenatal treatment of congenital toxoplasmosis could substantially reduce the proportion of infected fetuses that develop SNDS and would be particularly effective in fetuses whose mothers acquired T. gondii during the first third of pregnancy. These findings should be interpreted with caution, however, because of the small number of affected fetuses in the study and because of uncertainty about the timing of maternal infection. Furthermore, these findings only relate to the relatively benign strain of T. gondii that predominates in Europe and North America; further studies are needed to test whether prenatal treatment is effective against the more virulent strains of the parasite that occur in South America. Finally, because this study is an observational study, its findings might reflect differences between the study participants other than whether or not they received prenatal treatment. These findings need to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials of prenatal screening, therefore, before any policy decisions are made about routine prenatal screening and treatment for congenital toxoplasmosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information about all aspects of toxoplasmosis, including toxoplasmosis in pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Services Choices website has information for patients about toxoplasmosis and about the risks of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
KidsHealth, a resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation (a not-for-profit organization for children's health), provides information for parents about toxoplasmosis (in English and Spanish)
Tommy's, a nonprofit organization that funds research on the health of babies, also has information on toxoplasmosis
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on toxoplasmosis (in English and Spanish)
EUROTOXO contains reports generated by a European consensus development project
Uptodate provides information about toxoplasmosis and pregnancy
PMCID: PMC2953528  PMID: 20967235
13.  Prenatal Exposure to Bisphenol A and Child Wheeze from Birth to 3 Years of Age 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(6):916-920.
Background: Bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is routinely detected in > 90% of Americans, promotes experimental asthma in mice. The association of prenatal BPA exposure and wheeze has not been evaluated in humans.
Objective: We examined the relationship between prenatal BPA exposure and wheeze in early childhood.
Methods: We measured BPA concentrations in serial maternal urine samples from a prospective birth cohort of 398 mother–infant pairs and assessed parent-reported child wheeze every 6 months for 3 years. We used generalized estimating equations with a logit link to evaluate the association of prenatal urinary BPA concentration with the dichotomous outcome wheeze (wheeze over the previous 6 months).
Results: Data were available for 365 children; BPA was detected in 99% of maternal urine samples during pregnancy. In multivariable analysis, a one-unit increase in log-transformed creatinine-standardized mean prenatal urinary BPA concentration was not significantly associated with child wheeze from birth to 3 years of age, but there was an interaction of BPA concentration with time (p = 0.003). Mean prenatal BPA above versus below the median was positively associated with wheeze at 6 months of age [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.3; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 4.1] but not at 3 years (AOR = 0.6; 95% CI: 0.3, 1.1). In secondary analyses evaluating associations of each prenatal BPA concentration separately, urinary BPA concentrations measured at 16 weeks gestation were associated with wheeze (AOR = 1.2; 95% CI: 1.0, 1.5), but BPA concentrations at 26 weeks of gestation or at birth were not.
Conclusions: Mean prenatal BPA was associated with increased odds of wheeze in early life, and the effect diminished over time. Evaluating exposure at each prenatal time point demonstrated an association between wheeze from 6 months to 3 years and log-transformed BPA concentration at 16 weeks gestation only.
PMCID: PMC3385426  PMID: 22334053
bisphenol A; BPA; child; cotinine; prenatal; tobacco; wheeze
14.  Prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood atopic disease: A Mendelian randomization approach☆ 
Alcohol consumption in western pregnant women is not uncommon and could be a risk factor for childhood atopic disease. However, reported alcohol intake may be unreliable, and associations are likely to be confounded.
We aimed to study the relation between prenatal alcohol exposure and atopic phenotypes in a large population-based birth cohort with the use of a Mendelian randomization approach to minimize bias and confounding.
In white mothers and children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) we first analyzed associations between reported maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and atopic outcomes in the offspring measured at 7 years of age (asthma, wheezing, hay fever, eczema, atopy, and total IgE). We then analyzed the relation of maternal alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)1B genotype (rs1229984) with these outcomes (the A allele is associated with faster metabolism and reduced alcohol consumption and, among drinkers, would be expected to reduce fetal exposure to ethanol).
After controlling for confounders, reported maternal drinking in late pregnancy was negatively associated with childhood asthma and hay fever (adjusted odds ratio [OR] per category increase in intake: 0.91 [95% CI, 0.82-1.01] and 0.87 [95% CI, 0.78-0.98], respectively). However, maternal ADH1B genotype was not associated with asthma comparing carriers of A allele with persons homozygous for G allele (OR, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.66-1.47]) or hay fever (OR, 1.11 [95% CI, 0.71-1.72]), nor with any other atopic outcome.
We have found no evidence to suggest that prenatal alcohol exposure increases the risk of asthma or atopy in childhood.
PMCID: PMC3884122  PMID: 23806636
Alcohol; ADH1B; Mendelian randomization; prenatal exposure; ALSPAC; pregnancy; birth cohort; asthma; atopy; ADH, Alcohol dehydrogenase; ALSPAC, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC); GWAS, Genome Wide Association Study; PCA, Principal Components Analysis
15.  Prenatal and postnatal tobacco smoke exposure and respiratory health in Russian children 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):48.
Only few studies have assessed the relative impact of prenatal and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke on the child's later asthma or chronic respiratory symptoms and to our knowledge no studies have elaborated respiratory infections and allergies in this context.
To assess the effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke on respiratory health of Russian school children.
We studied a population of 5951 children (8 to12 years old) from 9 Russian cities, whose parents answered a questionnaire on their children's respiratory health, home environment, and housing characteristics. The main health outcomes were asthma, allergies, chronic respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and upper respiratory infections. We used adjusted odds ratios (ORs) from logistic regression analyses as measures of effect.
Prenatal exposure due to maternal smoking had the strongest effects on asthma (adjusted OR 2.46, 95% CI 1.19–5.08), chronic bronchitis (adjusted OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.08–1.96) and respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing (adjusted OR 1.30, 95% CI 0.90–1.89). The associations were weaker for exposure during early-life (adjusted ORs 1.38/1.27/1.15 respectively) and after 2 years of age (adjusted ORs 1.45/1.34/1.18) compared to prenatal exposure and the weakest or non-existent for current exposure (adjusted ORs 1.05/1.09/1.06). Upper respiratory infections were associated more strongly with early-life exposure (adjusted OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.09–1.42) than with prenatal (adjusted OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.54–1.01) or current exposure (adjusted OR1.05, 95% CI 0.92–1.20). The risk of allergies was also related to early life exposure to tobacco smoke (adjusted OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.13–1.42).
Adverse effects of tobacco smoke on asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic respiratory symptoms are strongest when smoking takes place during pregnancy. The relations are weaker for exposure during early-life and after 2 years of age and weakest or non-existent for current exposure.
PMCID: PMC1484481  PMID: 16569224
16.  Influence of smoking on asthmatic symptoms and allergen sensitisation in early childhood 
Postgraduate Medical Journal  2000;76(901):694-699.
BACKGROUND—Apart from heredity, several early life environmental factors are implicated in the development of childhood asthma. Maternal smoking is believed to increase asthmatic symptoms but its influence on the development of allergen sensitisation is debatable.
STUDY DESIGN—A whole population birth cohort was reviewed at ages 1, 2, and 4 years. Of 1218 children seen at 4 years, 981 (80.5%) were skin prick tested with a battery of common food and aeroallergens. Smoking history was recorded at birth and updated at each follow up and its impact on the development of asthma and allergen sensitisation in the children was assessed.
RESULTS—Two hundred and fifty mothers smoked during pregnancy (20.5%) and 307 (25.2%) after childbirth. Maternal smoking in pregnancy was associated with low birth weight (mean (SD): 3.3 (0.5) v 3.5 (0.5) kg; p<0.001). Smoking mothers were more often from lower social classes (31.8% v 16%, p<0.001) and they breast fed their babies for a shorter duration (8.5 (11.4) v 16.6 (15.2) weeks; p<0.001). The difference in breast feeding duration was partly due to a higher proportion of smoking mothers who never breast fed their babies. Although at age 2 years asthmatic symptoms were associated with exposure to maternal tobacco smoke (odds ratio 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.5 to 3.4; p<0.001), this association was lost by 4 years. However, maternal smoking was a significant risk factor in a subgroup of children with asthmatic symptoms but negative skin prick test. Maternal smoking did not increase allergen sensitisation at age 4 years. No effect of paternal smoking on asthma was observed in the children.

Keywords: maternal smoking; asthma; allergen sensitisation
PMCID: PMC1741811  PMID: 11060143
17.  Association of Birth Weight With Asthma-Related Outcomes at Age 2 Years 
Pediatric pulmonology  2006;41(7):643-648.
Summary. Background: Although lower birth weight associated with prematurity raises the risk of asthma in childhood, few prospective studies have examined higher birth weight, and few have separated the two components of birth weight, fetal growth and length of gestation.
Objective. To examine the associations of fetal growth and length of gestation with asthma-related outcomes by age 2 years.
Methods. We studied 1,372 infants and toddlers born after 34 weeks’ gestation in Project Viva, a prospective cohort study of pregnant mothers and their children. The main outcome measures were parent report of (1) any wheezing (or whistling in the chest) from birth to age 2 years, (2) recurrent wheezing during the first 2 years of life, and (3) doctor’s diagnosis of asthma, wheeze or reactive airwaydisease (“asthma”) by age 2. We calculated gestational age from the last menstrual period or ultrasound examination, and determined birth weight for gestational age z-value (“fetal growth”) using US national reference data.
Results. Infants’ mean birth weight was 3,527 (SD, 517; range, 1,559–5,528) grams. By age 2 years, 34% of children had any wheezing, 14% had recurrent wheezing, and 16% had doctor-diagnosed asthma. After adjusting for several parent, child, and household characteristics in logistic regression models, we found that infants with birth weight ≥4,000 g were not more likely to have any wheezing (odds ratio (OR), 0.91; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62, 1.34) or doctor-diagnosed asthma (OR, 0.80; 95% CI: 0.49, 1.31) than infants with birth weight 3,500–3,999 g. In models examining length of gestation and fetal growth separately, neither the highest nor the lowest groups of either predictor were associated with the three outcomes. Boys had a higher incidence of asthma-related outcomes than girls, and exposure to passive smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblings were all associated with greater risk of recurrent wheeze or asthma-related outcomes at age 2 years.
Conclusion. Although male sex, exposure to smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblingswere associated with increased riskof wheezing and asthma-related outcomes in this prospective study of children born after 34 weeks gestation, fetal growth and length of gestation were not.
PMCID: PMC1488724  PMID: 16703577
asthma; birth weight; fetal growth; length of gestation; wheezing
18.  Parental psychosocial stress and asthma morbidity in Puerto Rican twins 
Little is known about paternal psychosocial factors and childhood asthma.
To examine the link between maternal and paternal psychosocial stress and asthma outcomes in young children.
Parents of 339 pairs of Puerto Rican twins were interviewed individually about their own psychosocial stress and about asthma in their children at age 1 and again about their child’s asthma at age 3. Fathers were asked about symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anti-social behavior. Mothers were asked about depressive symptoms. Outcomes assessed in children included recent asthma symptoms, oral steroid use and hospitalizations for asthma in the prior year, and asthma diagnosis. Generalized estimated equation models were used for the multivariate analysis of parental psychosocial stress and asthma morbidity in childhood.
After multivariable adjustment, paternal PTSD symptoms, depression, and anti-social behavior were each associated with increased asthma symptoms at age 1 (e.g., OR =1.08 for each 1-point increase in PTSD score, 95% CI=1.03–1.14). Maternal depressive symptoms were associated with an increased risk of asthma hospitalizations at age 1 year. At age 3 years, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with asthma diagnosis and hospitalizations for asthma (OR for each 1-point increase in symptoms=1.16, 95% CI=1.00–1.36]). In an analysis combining 1 and 3 year outcomes, paternal depression was associated with oral steroid use, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with asthma hospitalizations and asthma diagnosis, and parental depression was associated with hospitalizations for asthma.
Both paternal and maternal psychosocial factors may influence asthma morbidity in young Puerto Rican children.
PMCID: PMC3057225  PMID: 21194742
psychosocial stress; childhood wheeze; Puerto Rico; parental stress; asthma; paternal stress
19.  Parental smoking and children's respiratory health: independent effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure 
Tobacco Control  2006;15(4):294-301.
Adverse effects have been reported of prenatal and/or postnatal passive exposure to smoking on children's health. Uncertainties remain about the relative importance of smoking at different periods in the child's life. We investigate this in a pooled analysis, on 53 879 children from 12 cross‐sectional studies—components of the PATY study (Pollution And The Young).
Effects were estimated, within each study, of three exposures: mother smoked during pregnancy, parental smoking in the first two years, current parental smoking. Outcomes were: wheeze, asthma, “woken by wheeze”, bronchitis, nocturnal cough, morning cough, “sensitivity to inhaled allergens” and hay fever. Logistic regressions were used, controlling for individual risk factors and study area. Heterogeneity between study‐specific results, and mean effects (allowing for heterogeneity) were estimated using meta‐analytical tools.
There was strong evidence linking parental smoking to wheeze, asthma, bronchitis and nocturnal cough, with mean odds ratios all around 1.15, with independent effects of prenatal and postnatal exposures for most associations.
Adverse effects of both pre‐ and postnatal parental smoking on children's respiratory health were confirmed. Asthma was most strongly associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy, but postnatal exposure showed independent associations with a range of other respiratory symptoms. All tobacco smoke exposure has serious consequences for children's respiratory health and needs to be reduced urgently.
PMCID: PMC2563598  PMID: 16885578
tobacco smoke; fetus; child; respiratory symptoms; asthma
20.  Perinatal Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Production, Influenced by Maternal Pregnancy Weight Gain, Predicts Childhood Asthma 
Rationale: Innate immune responses marked by increases in tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α have been associated with asthma but whether such alterations are evident before symptoms is not yet clear.
Objectives: To determine if prevalence of childhood asthma or asthma-related traits is predicted by perinatal innate immune status and if maternal factors related to pregnancy influence asthma prevalence and innate immune status.
Methods: In the Tucson Infant Immune Study (a nonselected birth cohort), presence of eczema and wheezing in the child's first year and physician-diagnosed asthma through age 9 and asthma in the parents was obtained from parent-completed questionnaires. TNF-α, IL-6, IL-10, and IL-12 were measured in supernatants of LPS-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells at birth and 3 months as was TNF-α in plasma. TNF-α single nucleotide polymorphisms were genotyped by Sequenom. Percent predicted FEV1/FVC was measured at age 9. Maternal weight gain during pregnancy and prepregnancy weight were ascertained from medical records.
Measurements and Main Results: Infants with persistently elevated LPS-induced TNF-α at birth and 3 months were at increased risk for childhood asthma (odds ratio [OR], 4.1; confidence interval [CI], 1.9–8.8; n = 233; P = 0.0003) and had decreased FEV1/FVC ratios at age 9. Children with mothers in the top tertile for pregnancy weight gain had increased risk for asthma (OR, 3.4; CI, 1.7–6.9; n = 225; P = 0.001) and persistently elevated TNF-α in early life (OR, 2.9; CI, 1.4–8.2; n = 195; P = 0.013). These relations were independent of maternal asthma and rhinitis.
Conclusions: Persistently elevated LPS-induced TNF-α production early in life acts as a predictive biomarker for childhood asthma, and excess pregnancy weight gain in the mother seems to contribute to both.
PMCID: PMC3735244  PMID: 23590270
biomarker; innate cytokines; asthma etiology
21.  Maternal asthma, premature birth, and the risk of respiratory morbidity in schoolchildren in Merseyside. 
Thorax  1995;50(5):525-530.
BACKGROUND--A study was carried out to analyse the impact of maternal asthma on the risk of preterm delivery and the contribution of preterm delivery to the development of childhood asthma. METHODS--Two cross sectional community studies of 1872 children (5-11 years) in 1991 and 3746 children in 1993 were performed. A respiratory health questionnaire was distributed throughout 15 schools in Merseyside and completed by the parents of the children. RESULTS--Asthmatic mothers were more likely to have a preterm delivery than non-asthmatic mothers (odds ratio (OR) 1.49; 95% CI 1.10 to 2.02). Smoking was a separate risk factor for preterm delivery (OR 1.35; 95% CI 1.10 to 1.65). Asthmatic mothers did not have an increased risk of delivering small, growth retarded babies. Maternal asthma, paternal asthma, and premature birth, in that order, increased the risk of later childhood respiratory morbidity (OR 3.13, 95% CI 2.36 to 4.16; 2.23, 95% CI 1.62 to 3.05; 1.40, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.79). Conversely, babies who were small for gestational age appeared less likely to develop doctor diagnosed asthma or the symptom triad of cough, wheeze, and breathlessness in childhood, although this was not statistically significant (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.28 to 1.41). CONCLUSIONS--Maternal smoking during pregnancy and maternal asthma are independent risk factors associated with preterm delivery. Asthma in mothers predisposes to preterm delivery but not fetal growth retardation. Preterm birth, but not growth retardation, predisposes the child to the development of subsequent asthma.
PMCID: PMC1021223  PMID: 7597666
22.  Influence of maternal and perinatal factors on subsequent hospitalisation for asthma in children: evidence from the Oxford record linkage study 
There is much interest in the possibility that perinatal factors may influence the risk of disease in later life. We investigated the influence of maternal and perinatal factors on subsequent hospital admission for asthma in children.
Analysis of data from the Oxford record linkage study (ORLS) to generate a retrospective cohort of 248 612 records of births between 1970 and 1989, with follow-up to records of subsequent hospital admission for 4 017 children with asthma up to 1999.
Univariate analysis showed significant associations between an increased risk of admission for asthma and later years of birth (reflecting the increase in asthma in the 1970s and 1980s), low social class, asthma in the mother, unmarried mothers, maternal smoking in pregnancy, subsequent births compared with first-born, male sex, low birth weight, short gestational age, caesarean delivery, forceps delivery and not being breastfed. Multivariate analysis, identifying each risk factor that had a significant effect independently of other risk factors, confirmed associations with maternal asthma (odds ratio (OR) 3.1, 95% confidence interval 2.7-3.6), male sex (versus female, 1.8, 1.7-2.0), low birth weight (1000-2999 g versus 3000-3999 g, 1.2, 1.1-1.3), maternal smoking (1.1, 1.0-1.3) and delivery by caesarean section (1.2; 1.0-1.3). In those first admitted with asthma under two years old, there were associations with having siblings (e.g. second child compared with first-born, OR 1.3, 1.0-1.7) and short gestational age (24-37 weeks versus 38-41 weeks, 1.6, 1.2-2.2). Multivariate analysis confined to those admitted with asthma aged six years or more, showed associations with maternal asthma (OR 3.8, 3.1-4.7), age of mother (under 25 versus 25-34 at birth, OR 1.16, 1.03-1.31; over 35 versus 25-34, OR 1.4, 1.1-1.7); high social class was protective (1 and 2, compared with 3, 0.72; 0.63-0.82). Hospital admission for asthma in people aged over six was more common in males than females (1.4; 1.2-1.5); but, by the teenage years, the sex ratio reversed and admission was more common in females than males.
Several maternal characteristics and perinatal factors are associated with an elevated risk of hospital admission for asthma in the child in later life.
PMCID: PMC2846893  PMID: 20233433
23.  Prenatal Maternal Stress Predicts Childhood Asthma in Girls: Project Ice Storm 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:201717.
Little is known about how prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) influences risks of asthma in humans. In this small study, we sought to determine whether disaster-related PNMS would predict asthma risk in children. In June 1998, we assessed severity of objective hardship and subjective distress in women pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. Lifetime asthma symptoms, diagnoses, and corticosteroid utilization were assessed when the children were 12 years old (N = 68). No effects of objective hardship or timing of the exposure were found. However, we found that, in girls only, higher levels of prenatal maternal subjective distress predicted greater lifetime risk of wheezing (OR = 1.11; 90% CI = 1.01–1.23), doctor-diagnosed asthma (OR = 1.09; 90% CI = 1.00–1.19), and lifetime utilization of corticosteroids (OR = 1.12; 90% CI = 1.01–1.25). Other perinatal and current maternal life events were also associated with asthma outcomes. Findings suggest that stress during pregnancy opens a window for fetal programming of immune functioning. A sex-based approach may be useful to examine how prenatal and postnatal environments combine to program the immune system. This small study needs to be replicated with a larger, more representative sample.
PMCID: PMC4034394  PMID: 24895550
24.  Major Radiodiagnostic Imaging in Pregnancy and the Risk of Childhood Malignancy: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Ontario 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(9):e1000337.
In a record-linkage study, Joel Ray and colleagues examine the association between diagnostic imaging during pregnancy and later childhood cancers.
The association between fetal exposure to major radiodiagnostic testing in pregnancy—computed tomography (CT) and radionuclide imaging—and the risk of childhood cancer is not established.
Methods and Findings
We completed a population-based study of 1.8 million maternal-child pairs in the province of Ontario, from 1991 to 2008. We used Ontario's universal health care–linked administrative databases to identify all term obstetrical deliveries and newborn records, inpatient and outpatient major radiodiagnostic services, as well as all children with a malignancy after birth. There were 5,590 mothers exposed to major radiodiagnostic testing in pregnancy (3.0 per 1,000) and 1,829,927 mothers not exposed. The rate of radiodiagnostic testing increased from 1.1 to 6.3 per 1,000 pregnancies over the study period; about 73% of tests were CT scans. After a median duration of follow-up of 8.9 years, four childhood cancers arose in the exposed group (1.13 per 10,000 person-years) and 2,539 cancers in the unexposed group (1.56 per 10,000 person-years), a crude hazard ratio of 0.69 (95% confidence interval 0.26–1.82). After adjusting for maternal age, income quintile, urban status, and maternal cancer, as well as infant sex, chromosomal or congenital anomalies, and major radiodiagnostic test exposure after birth, the risk was essentially unchanged (hazard ratio 0.68, 95% confidence interval 0.25–1.80).
Although major radiodiagnostic testing is now performed in about 1 in 160 pregnancies in Ontario, the absolute annual risk of childhood malignancy following exposure in utero remains about 1 in 10,000. Since the upper confidence limit of the relative risk of malignancy may be as high as 1.8 times that of an unexposed pregnancy, we cannot exclude the possibility that fetal exposure to CT or radionuclide imaging is carcinogenic.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In industrialized countries, childhood cancer (any form of cancer in a child aged 14 years or under) remains a major cause of death. With the exception of a few known risk factors, such as acquired genetic predisposition to cancer, which accounts for about 10% of all childhood cancers, the etiology of most childhood cancer remains unknown. There is thought to be an association between exposure to ionizing radiation in pregnancy and the subsequent risk of development of cancer in the exposed mother's child, but the evidence base to support this association is conflicting. For example, studies examining maternal exposure to plain radiographs in pregnancy and subsequent childhood cancer are inconsistent. Furthermore, although their use has dramatically increased over the past two decades, little is known about the cancer risk related to certain types of radiodiagnostic tests, such as CT and radionuclide imaging, both of which expose the fetus to considerably higher doses of radiation than plain radiographs administered at the same anatomical level.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many women could be exposed to major radiodiagnostic tests, such as those used in emergency situations, before they are aware that they are pregnant, as almost 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. This situation means that it is important to determine the subsequent cancer risk to any child exposed to maternal radiodiagnostic tests before birth.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study of women who delivered a live infant in Ontario, Canada between April 1, 1992 and March 31, 2008. The basis of the research was an anonymized database for the whole province of Ontario, where universal health care, including prenatal care and radiodiagnostic testing, is available to all residents. Database characteristics allowed the researchers to link maternal radiation exposure (a major radiodiagnostic test performed on the mother up to one day before her delivery date) in a specific (index) pregnancy to a subsequent malignancy in the child. After birth, maternal-infant pairs were only followed up if the infant was delivered at term, weighed 2,500 g or more, and survived for at least 30 days.
The researchers were able to follow up 1,835,517 maternal-child pairs. The overall rate of exposure to major radiodiagnostic testing in pregnancy was 3.0 per 1,000 and occurred at an estimated mean gestational age of 15.7 weeks. A total of four childhood cancers occurred in the exposed group and 2,539 cancers in the unexposed group corresponding to a crude hazard ratio of 0.69, which did not significantly change after adjustments were made for potential confounding factors, such as maternal age, sex, and the presence of any chromosomal or congenital anomalies in the infant. The overall prevalence of childhood cancer following exposure to CT or radionuclide imaging in pregnancy is under 0.07%, giving an incidence rate of 1.13 per 10,000 person-years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings can help inform clinicians and mothers about the risk of childhood malignancy following major radiodiagnostic testing in pregnancy. The absolute risk appears to be low, while the relative risk is not materially higher than that of unexposed controls. However, as the upper confidence limit of the relative risk of malignancy may be a maximum of 1.8 times that of an unexposed pregnancy, the possibility that fetal exposure to CT or radionuclide imaging is carcinogenic cannot be excluded. Because this finding means that a very slight risk may exist, beta hCG testing should continue to be done in all potentially pregnant women before undergoing major radiodiagnostic testing, and lead apron shielding used in all women of reproductive age, whether or not known to be pregnant. In addition, nonradiation-emitting imaging, such as MRI and ultrasonography, should be considered first, when clinically appropriate. However, some pregnant women will still be faced with the decision to undergo CT or nuclear imaging because the test is clinically warranted. The findings of this study suggest that when clinically indicated, major radiodiagnostic testing in pregnancy should be performed, along with brief counseling to help lessen the anxiety experienced by an expectant mother before and after the birth of her child.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
For information for patients and caregivers on radiodiagnostic testing, see The Royal College of Radiologists
The National Cancer Institute provides information about childhood cancer
CureSearch for Children's Cancer provides additional information about research into childhood cancer
PMCID: PMC2935460  PMID: 20838660
25.  Maternal age of menarche is not associated with asthma or atopy in prepubertal children 
Thorax  2005;60(10):810-813.
Background: Maternal sex hormones in pregnancy can theoretically influence the developing fetal immune system and modulate the subsequent development of atopic disorders. Early onset of menarche has been linked to increased oestrogen levels in adult women. A study was undertaken to examine the association between early onset menarche in pregnant women and asthma and atopic status of their children at 7 years of age.
Methods: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a longitudinal birth cohort study in which pregnant women, resident in Avon (UK), were recruited on the basis of an expected date of delivery between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992. Maternal age at menarche was assessed from prenatal questionnaires administered to the women. Clinical outcomes in the children were based on mothers' responses to self-completion questionnaires and included asthma, eczema, and hay fever. The atopic status of the child was objectively assessed by skin prick tests to a panel of common aeroallergens at the age of 7 years. Analyses used multivariable logistic regression with a diverse range of possible confounders.
Results: Complete data were available on 5765 woman and child pairs. The prevalence of ever reported asthma to 7 years was 20.4%, eczema 58.6%, hay fever 12.1%, and atopy (defined as any positive (>2 mm weal) response) was present in 20.6%. There were no significant differences in mean age of menarche between mothers of children with and without each of the primary outcomes. Adjusted odds ratios (95% CI) for the latest age of menarche (16+ years) compared with the lowest (<12 years) reference group were 1.41 (1.00 to 1.99) for asthma, 0.98 (0.73 to 1.91) for eczema, 0.95 (0.62 to 1.44) for hay fever, and 0.98 (0.68 to 1.42) for atopy.
Conclusion: No consistent association was found between maternal age at menarche and asthma, eczema, hay fever or atopy in their children during early childhood.
PMCID: PMC1747209  PMID: 16055625

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