Research from the University of Melbourne’s Allergy and Lung Health Unit has shown that bronchitis in childhood increases the risk of developing lung diseases in middle-age.
Researchers discovered that Australian children who suffered from bronchitis at any time before the age 7 were more likely later to develop lung problems. The BMJ published these findings.
The researchers also found that children who died from lung disease by age 53 had suffered from asthma and pneumonia rather than chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive.
Dr Jennifer Perret is the lead author of the paper that was published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research today. She said the findings are based on the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study which followed 8,583 people born in Tasmania in 1961. They also started school in 1968.
“This is the very first long-term prospective study to assess the relationship between the severity of childhood bronchitis symptoms and the adult lung health outcomes. As we have seen, children with chronic bacterial bronchitis (prolonged bacterial bronchitis) are at higher risk for serious infective pulmonary disease. Therefore, studies such as ours are documenting the possibility that symptomatic children could develop lung conditions like asthma and lung function declines up to middle-life,” she said.
By surveying the participants at the beginning of the study, researchers established a link between childhood and adult bronchitis. Participants were followed for 46 years on average. 42% completed another questionnaire including a clinical exam and conditions of the lungs that had been diagnosed by a doctor between 2012 and 2016.
They divided participants into groups according to how often they had episodes of “bronchitis” or “loose, rattly, or chesty cough”. This revealed that the greater the frequency with which a person was diagnosed as suffering from asthma and pneumonia, the more likely it was that they had had bronchitis in their childhood.
Dr Perret indicated that while the numbers in the severest subgroup were very small (42 participants and only 14 of them had current asthma in middle aged), the trends across severity categories of bronchitis were significant.
“Compared to those who had never experienced bronchitis, there was an incremental risk of developing asthma and pneumonia. It was stronger the more frequently a person suffered from bronchitis in their childhood, especially if they had recurrent episodes lasting at least one week.
“It is noteworthy that the link between later adult active asthma and co-existent asthma was seen in participants who didn’t have wheezing or asthma in childhood. A similar finding was recently found in a large meta-analysis of school aged children who had suffered a lower respiratory tract infection in early childhood.”