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Rapid Infant Growth Linked to Asthma in Study

FRIDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Rapid growth during the first three months of life is associated with an increased risk of asthma symptoms in preschool children, a new study indicates.

The findings suggest that early infancy might be a critical period for the development of asthma, said the researchers at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

They examined data collected from 5,125 children who were followed from the fetal stage until they were 4 years old.

The researchers found no link between fetal growth and asthma symptoms. But in children with normal fetal growth, accelerated weight gain from birth to 3 months of age was associated with increased risk of asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm.

The study appears online ahead of print in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Previous research has shown an association between low birth weight and increased risk of asthma symptoms in children. This is the first study to examine specific fetal and infant growth patterns on asthma risk.

"Our results suggest that the relationship between infant weight gain and asthma symptoms is not due to the accelerated growth of fetal growth-restricted infants only," researcher Dr. Liesbeth Duijts said in a journal news release. "While the mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear, accelerated weight growth in early life might adversely affect lung growth and might be associated with adverse changes in the immune system."

She added: "Further research is needed to replicate our findings and explore the mechanisms that contribute to the effects of growth acceleration in infancy on respiratory health. The effects of infant growth patterns on asthma phenotypes [observable characteristics] in later life should also be examined."

More information

The American Lung Association has more about children and asthma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, news release, Jan. 20, 2012

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