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Most premature babies ‘grow out of asthma’, say researchers

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A large-scale Danish study has found that premature babies grow out of the asthma which they are more likely to develop in early life than other infants.

Researchers analysed health data on 1.8 million Danes from the 1980-2009 period, comparing health in people born before the 37th week of gestation with persons born after that week.

Specifically, they looked at prescriptions for asthma medicine handed in to identify probable asthmatics and then compared them with the rest of the population.

“There are a lot of half stories, myths even, about the health implications of prematurity”

Theis Lange

Their results suggested asthma prevalence was between 8% and 25% – depending on how premature the birth was – at the age of two years. But this came down to around 2% by the time people reached the age of 25-31.

The results from the study conducted by the University of Copenhagen are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Study author Dr Anne Louise de Barros Damgaard said: “The study confirms that those born prematurely are more likely to suffer asthmatic symptoms and lung conditions than other children.

“However, the good news is that they grow out of these conditions. We have looked at premature babies from birth and until the age of about 30, and we can see that the children do better and better. As adults they suffer no more lung conditions than others,” she said.

Fellow author Theis Lange added: “The conclusion is clear: Children born prematurely account for a very high proportion of the small children with asthmatic symptoms, but as they grow older, the trend becomes less pronounced.

“There are a lot of half stories, myths even, about the health implications of prematurity, and they can be a source of worry for parents of premature babies,” he said. “It is therefore good to know that as adults premature babies are no more susceptible to lung conditions than other people.”

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