Researchers found that Australian children who had bronchitis at least once before age seven were more likely to have lung problems later in life. The findings were published in The BMJ.
They also found that the lung diseases the children suffered by the time they reached age 53 were mostly asthma and pneumonia, rather than chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Lead author of a paper published today in the journal, BMJ Open Respiratory Research, Dr. Jennifer Perret, said the findings come from one of the world’s oldest studies, the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study, which followed 8,583 people who were born in Tasmania in 1961 and started school in 1968.
“This is the first very long-term prospective study that has examined the relationship between the severity of bronchitis in children and lung health outcomes in adults. We have already seen that children with long-term bacterial bronchitis have an increased risk of severe chronic infectious lung disease after two to five years, so studies like ours are investigating the potential for symptomatic children to develop lung conditions, such as asthma and lung function changes, through mid-adult life,” she said.
Researchers established the link between bronchitis in children and lung problems in adults by examining the original participants when they took part in the study. The participants were then followed for an average of 46 years, with 42 percent completing another questionnaire, including physician-diagnosed lung conditions and a clinical trial, between 2012 and 2016.
By dividing participants into groups based on the number and duration of episodes of “bronchitis” and/or “loose, rattling, or chesty cough,” they found that the more often a participant was diagnosed with pneumonia and asthma by a doctor, the more likely the participant was to have bronchitis as a child.
dr. Perret said the numbers in the most severe subgroup were small (only 42 participants belonged to this category and of those, only 14 had current middle-aged asthma), but trends in bronchitis severity categories were significant.
“Compared to the majority who never had bronchitis, there was an increasing risk of later asthma and pneumonia, which got worse the more often someone had bronchitis as a child, and especially if they had recurrent episodes lasting longer than at least one last month.
“Notably, the association with later active asthma in adults was seen in participants who did not have concurrent childhood asthma or wheezing, and a similar finding was seen recently in a very large meta-analysis of school-aged children who had early childhood wheezing. childhood had a lower respiratory tract infection.”