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Birth Weight Linked to Early Respiratory Symptoms

Lower birth weight in full-term infants associated with increased risk through age 5

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Full-term infants with a lower birth weight have an increased risk of respiratory symptoms up until age 5, especially if they are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, researchers report in the May 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Johan C. de Jongste, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine at Erasmus MC/Sophia Children's Hospital in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a seven-year study of 3,628 children with a gestational age of 37 weeks or more.

The researchers found each kilogram decrease in birth weight was associated with a 21 percent increased risk of respiratory symptoms from ages 1 to 5. By age 7, however, they found that there was no longer a significant association. The researchers also found that lower birth weight children who were exposed to tobacco smoke at home were significantly more likely than those who were not exposed to have respiratory symptoms at age 5 (odds ratio, 1.52).

"All parents should be strongly encouraged to stop smoking because it has clear health benefits for their offspring," the authors conclude. "Our data suggest that focusing on parents of low birth weight children is of specific interest because their children may be especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental tobacco smoke."

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