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Premature Babies With Asthma Outgrow It

Nicholas Bakalar


Parents of premature babies worry about many things, including an increased risk of asthma. But a large Danish study has found that asthma, common in premature babies, disappears as the children grow older. By the time they are adults, their risk of asthma is no greater than that of babies born full term.

Researchers combed birth and health data on 1.8 million people born from 1980 to 2009, checking for gestational age and neonatal respiratory problems.

The study, published in PLOS One, found that 27 percent of infants born earlier than 27 weeks required asthma medication during childhood, compared with 18 percent of those born at 28-31 weeks, 13 percent at 32-36 weeks, and 9 percent at full term.

But after controlling for socioeconomic status, maternal asthma, multiple birth and other factors, they found that by adolescence, the association had weakened, and by adulthood 2.4 percent of the former preemies required medication compared with 2.1 percent of those born full term, a clinically insignificant difference.

“There are more and more preemies,” said the lead author, Dr. Anne Louise Damgaard, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, “and we don’t really know what happens to them as they get older. But up to age 31, their lungs are pretty healthy. It’s possible that the differences may become more evident as they age.”

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