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26-04-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Early wheezing linked to cognitive deficits in young children


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MedWire News: Early wheezing, particularly persistent wheezing, is associated with cognitive deficits in young children, researchers have found.

Writing in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Wieslaw Jedrychowski (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland) and colleagues explain that “children with medical diagnosis of asthma appear to be at increased risk of behavioral and emotional problems, which include anxiety and depression.”

But they add that there is little data on the risk for cognitive deficits among young children with early wheezing disorders who are therefore at increased risk for asthma.

To investigate, the team studied data on a birth cohort of 468 children participating in long-term Polish health study.

The incidence of wheezing symptoms among the children was recorded over the first 2 years of life and children’s cognitive status was assessed at the age of 3 years using the Bayley Mental Development Index (MDI).

Overall, 126 (26.9%) children had at least one wheezing episode in the first 2 years of life. Of the 84 (17.9%) infants who suffered from wheezing in the first year of life, 30 (6.4%) were still wheezing in the second year of life.

The researchers found that MDI score correlated inversely with the number of wheezing days recorded over 2 years, lead concentration in cord blood, number of siblings, and the number of cigarettes smoked per day by other family members at home during the pregnancy period.

After accounting for maternal education, gender, prenatal exposure to lead and environmental tobacco smoke, the researchers found that wheezing over the first year of life was associated with a 2-point deficit on the MDI, while persistent wheezing over the first 2 years was associated with a 4-point deficit on the MDI.

Jedrychowski and team conclude: “To our knowledge, it is the first report in the literature showing that early wheezing is associated with cognitive deficits in community-recruited very young children.”

They suggest that wheezing may cause cognitive deficits by reducing oxygen supply to the rapidly growing brain.

“Planned further longitudinal observation of the study sample should provide more evidence on the role of respiratory health in the early childhood cognitive development,” they add.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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