Asthma and the Unborn Child

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases that affect children. An average of one in 10 school-aged children has asthma. According to a new study, every unborn child has a greater risk of contracting asthma if his or her father smoked before the age of 15.

The recent study analysing the smoking habits of over 13,000 men and women via questionnaire, conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway, revealed that non-allergic asthma without hay fever was more common in children whose father smoked prior to conception. The child’s risk of having asthma increases if the father starts smoking before he turns 15. And the risk grows the longer the duration the father smoked. The study, which looked at the incidence of asthma in the children, observed no link between the mother’s smoking prior to conception and the child’s asthma.

Cecilie Svanes, a doctor from the University of Bergen, said at the European Respiratory Society International congress in Munich: “This study is important as it is the first study looking at how a father’s smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children. Given these results, we can presume that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect.”

In the last decade, the number of people with asthma increased by 15 per cent making it rank third among major causes of hospitalization among children mostly under 15. Estimates of 235 million people have asthma with an annual death toll of 250, 000.

According to Svanes: “It is important for policy makers to focus on interventions targeting young men, and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future.”



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