A retrospective study of the relationship between childhood asthma and respiratory infection during gestation


Hughes Estover Health Centre, Leypark Walk, Estover, Plymouth PL6 8UE, UK.



Wheeze in children has been found to be associated with prior antepartum haemorrhage and raised levels of IgE in cord blood, and acute wheezing episodes are intimately linked with respiratory viral infections.


To assess the relationship between maternal presentation with respiratory tract infections in pregnancy and childhood asthma, taking into account factors which could affect presentation.


This was a case-control study of 200 asthmatic children, 5–16-year-old, age-matched with one control, having no recorded history of wheeze. Data on respiratory tract infections, maternal wheeze, atopy and smoking was collected from primary care records. Deprivation score was assessed according to small residential areas andsubjects were equally distributed between four general practices in Plymouth, UK.


Presentation with respiratory tract infections during pregnancy was significantly associated with childhood asthma (OR 1.69, 95% confidence interval 1.05–2.77, P = 0.03). The association was marginally stronger for infections in the first trimester (OR 2.30, 95% CI 1.05–5.41, P = 0.04) and for those with cough during pregnancy (OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.23–4.22, P = 0.007). The associations remained significant after allowing for the effect of the independent variables (gender, maternal smoking, maternal wheeze, allergic rhinitis, eczema, asthma treatment in pregnancy and deprivation [Townsend] score), using multiple logistic regression analysis (ORs and 95% CIs 1.91, 1.14–3.22; 2.32, 1.01–5.34 and 2.29, 1.17–4.48, respectively). There was also an association between numbers of presentations with respiratory infections and childhood asthma (test for trend, P = 0.02).


This study has shown an association between presentation with respiratory infection during gestation and childhood asthma. The results were not affected by the other independent variable factors studied and therefore provide some evidence to support the theory that respiratory viruses may be implicated in the aetiology of asthma.