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Asthma Associated with Exposure to Maternal Stress

New research presented at the American Association of Allergy Asthma and Immunology showed that exposure to maternal stress early in life can lead to the development of asthma.

Researcher Anita L. Kozyrskyj, PhD, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, and colleagues, set out to find out more information about how asthma development in children may be associated with maternal stress of the mother during their early childhood. The researchers used Manitoba's health care database records to determine which children had developed asthma by 7 years old on the basis of health care visits for asthma or prescriptions for asthma prescription drugs. Maternal stress was defined as physician visits for depression and anxiety, or antidepressant prescriptions.

The researchers analyzed the children at 1, 4, and 7 years of age. Of the 13,980 children born in Manitoba in 1995, 19% were exposed to maternal stress during the first year of life. The study found that this exposure to stress in early childhoodincreased the likelihood of asthma in the children. Eleven percent of the children were re-exposed to maternal stress by age 7 and 8% were re-exposed at age 4 and 7 years. Re-exposure to maternal stress by age 7 increased the likelihood of asthma, and the risk increased with repeated exposure to maternal stress, concluded the study.

This study shows that children who are exposed to maternal stress may be at a greater risk of developing asthma. Perhaps allergists can help to make parents aware of this previously unknown risk factor.

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