Early childhood infectious diseases and the development of asthma up to school age: A birth cohort study

S. Illi, E. von Mutius, S. Lau, R. Bergmann, B. Niggemann, C. Sommerfeld, U. Wahn, V. Wahn, M. Groeger, F. Zepp, I. Bieber, J. Forster, U. Tacke, C. P. Bauer, K. E. Bergmann, P. Wagner, G. Leskosek, R. Mayerl, B. Hampel, G. Edenharter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

472 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the association between early childhood infections and subsequent development of asthma. Design: Longitudinal birth cohort study. Setting: Five children's hospitals in five German cities. Participants: 1314 children born in 1990 followed from birth to the age of 7 years. Main outcome measures: Asthma and asthmatic symptoms assessed longitudinally by parental questionnaires: atopic sensitisation assessed longitudinally by determination of IgE concentrations to various allergens; bronchial hyperreactivity assessed by bronchial histamine challenge at age 7 years. Results: Compared with children with ≤ 1 episode of runny nose before the age of 1 year, those with ≥ 2 episodes were less likely to have a doctor's diagnosis of asthma at 7 years old (odds ratio 0.52 (95% confidence interval 0.29 to 0.92)) or to have wheeze at 7 years old (0.60 (0.38 to 0.94)), and were less likely to be atopic before the age of 5 years. Similarly, having ≥ 1 viral infection of the herpes type in the first 3 years of life was inversely associated with asthma at age 7 (odds ratio 0.48 (0.26 to 0.89)). Repeated lower respiratory tract infections in the first 3 years of life showed a positive association with wheeze up to the age of 7 years (odds ratio 3.37 (1.92 to 5.92) for ≥ 4 infections v ≤ 3 infections). Conclusion: Repeated viral infections other than lower respiratory tract infections early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma up to school age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-395
Number of pages6
Issue number7283
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2001


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