Children with severe asthma may be at greater risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during adulthood. That is according to a recent study published in the March 2014 online issue of Thorax, “The Association Between Childhood Asthma and Adult Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.”
The study, which examined children with asthma aged 6 to 7 years from a 1957 birth cohort, collected data via respiratory questionnaires and lung function spirometry with post-bronchodilator response every seven years until the children reached 50 years of age. At age 50, subjects were then classified into the following subgroups: non-asthmatics, asthma remission, current asthma and COPD. Of the participants, 21 died before the study was completed, while 197 completed both the questionnaire and lung function tests.
Researchers found that the risk of developing COPD for children with severe asthma was 32 times higher than that of children without symptoms of wheeze at age 7. However, there was no difference in the rate of declining lung function per year between those in the COPD group and the other groups, including non-asthmatics. In addition, researchers note that 43% of patients in the COPD group were nonsmokers.
“It is increasingly apparent that [COPD] often has its roots decades before the onset of symptoms,” wrote the study authors. “Impaired growth of lung function during childhood and adolescence, caused by premature gestation, asthma, recurrent infections or tobacco smoking, may lead to lower maximally attained lung function in early adulthood and also predispose to development of COPD.”