TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Low birth weight does not increase the risk of asthma in young children, a new study suggests.
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Researchers looked at data on nearly 4,000 children (193 low birth weight and 3,740 normal birth weight) born in Rochester, Minn., from 1976 through 1979.
Of the children with a low birth weight, nearly 7 percent developed asthma, compared with about 5 percent of those with a normal birth weight. The researchers concluded that birth weight had no effect on the risk of a child developing asthma within the first six years of life.
The study was published Jan. 15 in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood and is a leading reason for missed school days," lead author and allergist Dr. Hyeon Yang, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"While environment, genetics and their interaction are thought to increase one's risk of developing asthma, we now should not assume that low birth weight is associated with asthma. This is an important finding as we continue to understand who is at risk for asthma and why," Yang explained.
Asthma can occur at any age, but is more common in children than adults. It affects more than 25.7 million Americans and causes nearly 4,000 deaths a year.
"Asthma is a lifelong disease that is increasing every year within the United States, both by the number of people affected and by cost," Dr. Richard Weber, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in the news release.
"While researchers are still determining what exactly causes the disease, we do know how to effectively treat asthma in children and adults," Weber said. "It is important that those with symptoms see an allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment."
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Jan. 15, 2013