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New research links infant wheezing to long-term health

February 8, 2016 — 

A study by researchers at the University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia published Feb.8 online in JAMA Pediatrics provides important new insights into preventing asthma in children.

Asthma affects over 500,000 Canadian children and is the most common reason for children to miss school or be admitted to hospital. It accounts for over 30 per cent of Canadian healthcare billings for children.

Wheezing is frequent among babies and young children and this study focuses on the long-term implications of wheezing in early life, using data from the Canadian Asthma Primary Prevention Study (CAPPS).

The study followed 320 children born in Winnipeg and Vancouver at the St. Boniface, Health Sciences Centre and BC Children’s Hospitals  from before birth until adolescence and found that specific patterns of wheezing were associated with decreased lung function and increased risk of asthma by age 15. Children who wheezed consistently through infancy and early childhood had the worst lung function and the highest asthma risk at age 15. However, even children who wheezed only “transiently” as babies had reduced lung function and increased asthma risk as teenagers.

According to lead author Meghan Azad, U of M assistant professor in pediatrics & child health, this research could have positive implications for younger patients.

“Our research shows that asthma-associated deficits in lung function are already present at a very young age, suggesting that interventions to reduce early-life wheezing could have significant long-term health benefits,” says Azad, also research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. “Although many treatments exist to manage asthma symptoms, it is a lifelong disease and there is no cure. Prevention is the best approach to reduce the global burden of asthma, and our study provides important new information to inform asthma prevention strategies.”

The study published by  JAMA Pediatrics can be viewed here.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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