Asthma "Just a Phase" for Some Boys

Although boys are known to have a higher prevalence of asthma in their youth than girls are, it turns out that they are also more likely to grow out of it in adolescence.

Although boys are known to have a higher prevalence of asthma in their youth than girls are, it turns out that they are also more likely to grow out of it in adolescence.

According to researchers, this finding indicates that “there may be a buried mechanism in asthma development, according to a prospective study that analyzed airway responsiveness (AR) in more than 1,000 children with mild-to-moderate asthma over a period of about nine years.” Results of the study appear in the second August issue of the Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study was conducted by using data from the ongoing Childhood Asthma Management Program, which has enrolled 1,041 children between the ages of 5 and 12 who have moderate persistent asthma and have performed annual spirometric testing with methacholine challenges. What researchers discovered was that, “when it came to the amount of methacholine it took to provide airway constriction, girls’ reactivity did not change markedly over the years,” and that “boys became increasingly tolerant over time to larger and larger doses of methacholine, suggesting a possible decrease in disease severity.”

As time went on, results became more drastic, and by age 18, only 14% of girls in the study “did not demonstrate any significant degree of airways responsiveness, compared to 27% of boys.”

Kelan G. Tantisira, MD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and lead researcher of the study said, “While our results were not unexpected, they do point to intriguing potential mechanisms, to explain the gender differences in asthma incidence and severity. Especially intriguing is that the differences in gender begin at the time of transition into early puberty.”

Tansira’s next step is to follow the children over time to determine the severity of asthma in adulthood and to see what happens in terms of AR.

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