Ageing With Asthma
Do children with asthma grow out of it? An Australian study says this may depend on how severe the condition is.
The Melbourne Epidemiological Study of Childhood Asthma began in 1964 when 401 seven year old children, including 295 with asthma, were selected from the population. Another 83 children with severe asthma were added to the study in 1967.
The total group included 105 children who did not have wheezing problems, 178 with mild or wheezing bronchitis, 113 with asthma and the 83 severe asthmatics. This latter group began suffering asthma attacks before they turned three and had persistent symptoms by the age of 10.
The researchers followed the health fortunes of the group from age seven until the age of 42. Fifteen of the original group died (one from asthma) and 403 participated until the final review period at age 42.
When the subjects were 14 years old, 20 per cent reported that they had not experienced any recent asthma attacks. By age 42, 40 per cent of the subjects were able to say they had not had a recent attack.
While this suggests a rising number of the subjects grew out of the condition, there was less positive news for those with asthma. Children who had asthma at age seven were found to have reduced lung function at the age of 42, based on laboratory tests of their breathing capacity.
In a report published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers said: "Our study shows that the pattern of asthma during childhood predicts outcome. Most children with persistent asthma had continuing symptoms into adult life and reduced lung function.
"However, children who had intermittent symptoms associated with respiratory tract infections generally had complete resolution of the symptoms in adult life."
In other words, the more severe the asthma problem during childhood, the more likely it was to continue into adulthood. During this period it could also result in permanently impaired lung function.
The study was conducted jointly by the Royal Children's Hospital, Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Alfred Hospital Department of Respiratory Medicine.
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