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Breast-Feeding Tied to Child's Risk of Asthma Symptoms

Non-exclusive or never breast-feeding linked to increased risk of asthma symptoms in children

TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to exclusive breast-feeding and breast-feeding for six months, non-exclusive breast-feeding or never breast-feeding is associated with an increased risk of asthma-related symptoms in children during the first four years of their life, with the strongest association occurring in the first two years, according to a study published online July 20 in the European Respiratory Journal.

Agnes M.M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues investigated the association between the duration and exclusiveness of breast-feeding with the risks of asthma-related symptoms and whether the associations are attributed to atopic or infectious mechanisms in 5,368 preschool children. Questionnaires were used to obtain data on breast-feeding duration, exclusiveness, and asthma-related symptoms, including wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough, and persistent phlegm.

The investigators found that, compared to children who were breast-fed for six months, the children who were never breast-fed had an overall increased risk of wheezing (odds ratio, [OR], 1.44), shortness of breath (OR, 1.26), dry cough (OR, 1.25), and persistent phlegm (OR, 1.57). Children who were not exclusively breast-fed had similar risks for asthma symptoms as those who were never breast-fed. Wheezing at one and two years showed the strongest association per symptom per year. After adjustments, the associations of breast-feeding with asthma-related symptoms were partially explained by lower respiratory tract infections but not by eczema.

"Our results suggest that a short duration of breast-feeding and non-exclusivity are associated with increased risks of the asthma-related symptoms during the first four years of life, with the strongest effect estimates during the first two years," the authors write.

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