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Birthday may play role in asthma risk

By Kathy Whitney
July 2009

Children who are born four months before the peak of cold and flu season have a greater risk of developing childhood asthma than children born at any other time of year, according to VUMC researchers.

In the Tennessee Asthma Bronchiolitis Study (TABS), which involved an analysis of the birth and medical records of more than 95,000 children and their mothers, researchers addressed the question of whether winter respiratory viral infections during infancy cause asthma.

They asked if there is a relationship between winter virus circulation (cold and flu season) during infancy, timing of birth, and the development of childhood asthma.

They found that the timing of when a child is born in relationship to the annual cold and flu season alters the risk for developing asthma.

Autumn-born babies, who are about 4 months old when the winter virus season peaks, have a nearly 30 percent increased risk of developing asthma compared with births during other times of the year, and this risk was similar to or greater than other well-established risk factors for asthma.

The research, conducted by post doctoral fellow Pingsheng Wu, Ph.D., and colleagues, appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“This holds promise for asthma prevention — as this evidence suggests that avoiding these early respiratory infections during infancy may have long-term as well as short-term benefits,” said Tina Hartert, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and director of the Center for Asthma Research at Vanderbilt.

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