The relationship between anthropometric measurements at birth: asthma and atopy in childhood


Doull Cystic Fibrosis Unit, Department of Child Health, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff CF4 4XW, UK.



Recent studies have reported that a large head circumference at birth is associated with an increased risk of raised serum IgE in adult life, and asthma during childhood.


To examine the relationship between head circumference and other anthropometric measurements at birth and asthma and indices of atopy in childhood.


The presence of asthma and measures of atopic status (total serum IgE level and skin prick tests to common allergens) were assessed prospectively in offspring of families participating in a community-based genetic study in Southampton, UK. Measures of perinatal variables including birth weight, head circumference at birth, and gestational age were obtained from hospital records of 239 offspring aged 6–23 years.


Children with a head circumference of 37 cm or more at birth had a relative risk of an elevated serum total IgE (> 150 IU) of 3.2 (95% CI 1.0–10.4). There were no consistent relationships between head circumference at birth and either skin prick positivity or the development of clinical asthma. There was no significant association between other perinatal markers and measures of atopic status or clinical asthma.


The study has identified that a large head circumference at birth is associated with an increased risk of an elevated total serum IgE in childhood. The reasons for this association, and the lack of an association with asthma are unclear and will require further research.