Childhood Respiratory Tract Infections Linked to Asthma Later On


Lower respiratory tract infections were associated with worse outcomes.

Young children who get lower respiratory tract infections are more likely to have asthma and worse lung function in later life, according to new research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress this week.

Evelien van Meel, MD, from the Generation R Study Group at Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, and colleagues reported on results from an international study of 154,942 European children that noted that those children who had had colds, sinusitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, pharyngitis and otitis, by the age of 5 years had a 1.5-fold increased risk of developing asthma in later life. Children who had suffered from lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia and general chest infections, had a 2- to 4-fold increased risk of developing asthma in later life and were also more likely to have worse lung function.

The researchers analysed data from 37 groups of children from several European countries who were born between 1989 and 2013. Children were included in this meta-analysis if data were available on respiratory tract infections in early life (from age 6 months up to 5 years old), and childhood lung function and/or asthma. The length of follow-up varied between groups, but ranged from birth until the age of four to 15 years.

The children's lung function was measured as they grew older with a spirometer, and the researchers adjusted their analysis to take account of factors that could affect the results, such as socioeconomic status, lifestyle, birth weight, gestational age at birth, gender, age, height and ethnicity.

The study concluded that upper respiratory tract infections were not associated with worse lung function in later life. However, lower respiratory tract infections at almost all ages were associated with worse lung function as indicated by lower scores for FVC, FEV1 and FEF75.

Dr van Meel noted in a press release that it will be interesting to examine the long-term consequences in adulthood of respiratory tract infections on lung function and asthma, and the study team are planning further research.


Respiratory tract infections in young children linked to asthma and worse lung function in later life [news release]. Milan, Italy. ERS International Congress website. Accessed September 12, 2017.

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