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11-04-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Late preterm birth ‘not linked to increased asthma risk’


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children with a late preterm birth are no more likely to develop asthma than those born at term, results from a US study suggest.

Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, Karon Abe and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, explain that although preterm birth (before 34 weeks of gestation) is an established risk factor for long-term respiratory conditions such as asthma, the association between late preterm birth (between weeks 34 and 36 of gestation) and asthma has not been investigated.

To address this, the researchers studied data on 6187 children, aged between 2.0 months and 6.9 years, who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994). According to birth certificate files, 537 children were born late preterm and 5650 were born at term.

Questionnaires completed by parents showed that 370 (6.3%) children had been diagnosed with asthma at the time of the survey, including 9.0% of children born late preterm and 6.0% of those born at term.

After accounting for factors such as mother's age at birth, parental history of asthma and hay fever, maternal smoking habits, race/ethnicity, and gender, the team found that preterm birth was not associated with an increased risk for doctor-diagnosed asthma, at a non-significant hazard ratio of 1.3.

Abe and colleagues conclude that, although “numerous studies show that infants born late preterm have higher morbidity and mortality risk compared with infants born at term… in the present analysis, late preterm birth was not an important predictor of asthma risk for children aged 2–83 months.”

They add: “Further studies that assess for a ‘gestational age’ dose effect and that help identify the groups at greatest risk for potential long-term respiratory outcomes among infants born late preterm will help health care providers prepare for the medical needs of this population.”

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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