Accelerated Infant Growth Increases Asthma Risk

Infants who grow at an accelerated pace have an increased risk of asthma symptoms, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands have found.

Infants who grow at an accelerated pace have an increased risk of asthma symptoms, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands have found.

The researchers studied participants in the Generation R Study Group, a population-based prospective cohort study including 5,125 children. They estimated second and third trimester fetal growth characteristics—such as head circumference, femur length, abdominal circumference, and weight—through repeated ultrasounds. They then measured infant growth—head circumference, length, and weight—at birth and three, six, and 12 months of age. Annual questionnaires concerning asthma symptoms were also collected from the childrens’ parents until the children reached age four.

The researchers observed no consistent connection between fetal length and weight increase and the development of asthma symptoms. Accelerated weight gain from birth to three months following normal fetal growth, however, was associated with increased risk of asthma symptoms: a 44% increased risk of wheezing, a 32% increased risk of shortness of breath, a 16% increased risk of dry cough, and a 30% increased risk of persistent phlegm. Eczema, however, was not connected to accelerated birth weight gain. The researchers noted that these connections were stronger for children of atopic mothers than for children of non-atopic mothers.

“Weight gain acceleration in early infancy was associated with increased risks of asthma symptoms in preschool children, independent of fetal growth,” write the authors in their study’s abstract. “Early infancy might be a critical period for the development of asthma."

The study was published online last Friday ahead of print publication in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.