We are certainly aware that young children predisposed to lower respiratory illnesses in infancy and toddlerhood are often the ones who go on in childhood to experience some problems with lung function and develop illnesses such as asthma. But what happens when these same children become adults? Do they continue to experience problems with lung function?
Chan et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3060) explore these questions by following a cohort of children diagnosed with and without lower respiratory illnesses in the first 3 years of life and then followed with spirometry at ages 11,16,22, and 26 years of age along with information on asthma and wheezing obtained at 8 different time intervals between ages 11 and 29. If a child experienced early pneumonia, the risk of experiencing asthma into adult life and being predisposed to developing adult chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was greater than if pneumonia had not been present in infancy and toddlerhood.
Understanding how early infection might trigger this life-long challenge with impaired airway function makes for an interesting discussion. So take a deep breath and learn more about this longitudinal cohort, and how the findings in this study might apply to your own young patients with lower respiratory illness as they get older.