Clinical & Experimental Allergy

The relation of markers of fetal growth with asthma, allergies and serum immunoglobulin E levels in children at age 5–7 years


Dr Gabriele Bolte, Department of Epidemiology, University of Ulm, Helmholtzstr. 22, 89081 Ulm, Germany. E-mail:


Background It has been suggested that fetal growth and maturation have an impact on the development of allergic diseases later in life.

Objective To examine the association between measures of fetal growth and allergic disease in children at age 5–7 years.

Methods As part of the German International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood phase II surveys, a random sample of school beginners (n=1138) was examined in 1995. Data on anthropometric measures at birth and gestational age were obtained from maternal copies of birth records. Data on symptoms and doctor-diagnosed asthma, atopic dermatitis and hayfever were gathered by parental questionnaires. Atopic sensitization was assessed by serum IgE and skin prick tests to common aeroallergens. Children (741) had complete data for the explanatory variables of interest and were thus eligible for this analysis. Confounder-adjusted prevalence odds ratios (PORs) and means ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using multiple logistic and linear regression.

Results Birth weight and gestational age were positively associated with atopic sensitization (Ptrend=0.025 and 0.035, respectively). Children with a low birth weight relative to head circumference had a decreased risk of sensitization (POR 0.44, 95% CI 0.21–0.91; Ptrend=0.020). Moreover, total serum IgE increased with increasing birth weight (Ptrend=0.042). No consistent relationship was observed between markers of fetal growth and wheezing, doctor-diagnosed asthma, atopic dermatitis and hayfever.

Conclusion These data suggest that fetal growth and maturity are associated with atopic sensitization and total serum IgE levels in childhood.