BACKGROUND Relatively little is known about risk factors for the persistence of asthma and respiratory symptoms from childhood into adolescence, and few studies have included objective measurements to assess outcomes and exposure.
METHODS From a large cross sectional study of all 4th grade school children in Munich (mean age 10.2 years), 234 children (5%) with active asthma were identified. Of these, 155 (66%) were reinvestigated with lung function measurements and bronchial provocation three years later (mean age 13.5 years).
RESULTS At follow up 35.5% still had active asthma. Risk factors for persisting asthma symptoms in adolescence were more severe asthma (OR 4.94; CI 1.65 to 14.76; p = 0.004) or allergic triggers (OR 3.54; CI 1.41 to 8.92; p = 0.007) in childhood. Dampness was associated with increased night time wheeze and shortness of breath but not with persisting asthma. Risk factors for bronchial hyperreactivity in adolescence were bronchial hyperreactivity in childhood (p = 0.004), symptoms triggered by allergen exposure (OR 5.47; CI 1.91 to 25.20; p = 0.029), and damp housing conditions (OR 16.14; CI 3.53 to 73.73; p<0.001). In a subgroup in whom house dust mite antigen levels in the bed were measured (70% of the sample), higher mite antigen levels were associated with bronchial hyperreactivity (OR per quartile of mite antigen 2.30; CI 1.03 to 5.12; p = 0.042). Mite antigen levels were also significantly correlated with dampness (p = 0.05). However, the effect of dampness on bronchial hyperreactivity remained significant when adjusting for mite allergen levels (OR 5.77; CI 1.17 to 28.44; p = 0.031).
CONCLUSION Dampness at home is a significant risk factor for the persistence of bronchial hyperreactivity and respiratory symptoms in children with asthma. This risk is only partly explained by exposure to house dust mite antigen.
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