Kids’ chest illness not tied to later lung trouble

Wheezing, pneumonia, or whooping cough in early life is not associated with a decline in lung function in adulthood, new research suggests.

Previous reports examining this topic have yielded conflicting results, study co-author Dr. David P. Strachan and colleagues, from the University of London, note. However, these studies were limited in their ability to reach firm conclusions because they included relatively small numbers of subjects and the length of follow-up was not very long.

In the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the investigators report the results of their study, which included 1,158 subjects who had participated in the British 1958 Birth Cohort. Detailed information on the subjects’ chest illness in childhood was recorded and lung function testing was performed when they reached 35 and 45 years old.

Between age 35 and 45, the amount of air that could be expelled in 1 second after taking the biggest breath possible, a parameter that doctors refer to as the forced expiratory volume in 1 second, or “FEV1,” fell by 35 milliliters each year. The rate of decline in lung function was not significantly affected by wheezing, pneumonia, or whooping cough in childhood.

They also found that the rate of lung function decline between age 35 and 42 was more rapid among smokers compared with former smokers and those who never smoked. Individuals in a manual labor class at birth also had a more rapid decline in lung function compared with those from non-manual social classes.

The results suggest that individuals with a childhood history of chest illness need not worry that their adult lung function will be impaired as a result, the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, February 15, 2007.

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