Background: It has been suggested that environmental factors early in life, particularly related to hygiene and infections, seem to be involved in the increase of asthma and allergic disease observed recently in developed countries. The possible effect of these factors also in utero have yet to be completely clarified. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between infective and uterus related complications during pregnancy, as well as related drug factors, with atopic and nonatopic asthma in children.
Methods: This was a case-controlled study enrolling 338 children with asthma and 467 controls, who had never suffered from wheeze or asthma. Fever episodes, flu episodes, threatened abortions and related drug factors were retrospectively assessed by parental report via a standardized questionnaire. Atopy was determined by skin-prick tests to 10 prevalent allergens at the time of examination.
Results: Flu episodes during pregnancy were significantly associated with development of asthma in children [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.91; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.1–3.2], mainly with nonatopic asthma. Fever episodes showed similar results (aOR 2.16; 95% CI 1.2–3.9), but were associated with both atopic and nonatopic asthma. The effect seems mainly due to flu and fever episodes contracted in the third trimester. Exposure to isoxsuprine was significantly associated with asthma (aOR 1.54; 95% CI 1.08–2.19) while threatened abortions were more frequent in the asthma group than in controls, although the difference was statistically significant only when such events occurred in the second trimester (aOR 2.06; 95% CI 1.07–3.94). Both threatened abortions and exposure to isoxsuprine were associated only with nonatopic asthma.
Conclusions: This study confirms that prenatal infective complications may contribute to the development of asthma in children and show a possible role for a new risk factor for asthma, that is exposure to isoxsuprine. Therefore, larger prospective studies, capable of separating atopic and nonatopic asthma, would serve to confirm these results and to explain the possible mechanism through which these factors may act.