In a prospective, longitudinal, population-based cohort study of familial and environmental influences on the development of wheezing respiratory illness in early childhood, we identified infant length, weight, gender, and exposure to maternal cigarette smoking as significant determinants of lung function during the first year of life. A cohort of 237 infants (106 females: 131 males) was evaluated, and 496 lung function measurements were made between the ages of 1-12 months. Respiratory function was assessed using the rapid thoracic compression technique to obtain maximum expiratory flow at functional residual capacity (V'maxFRC). Parental history of asthma and smoking habits during pregnancy were obtained by questionnaire. Data were analyzed using a longitudinal random effects model. Infants with a parental history of asthma and/or in utero passive smoke exposure were compared to a reference group of infants who had no parental history of asthma and in whom neither parent smoked pre- or postnatally. Boys were found to have a consistently lower V'maxFRC (-21.05 mL.s(-1)) throughout the first year of life in comparison to girls (P < 0.05). Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with a lower V'maxFRC in both genders in comparison to unexposed infants (P < 0.05). V'maxFRC was unaffected by parental history of asthma. Gender-specific normative equations for V'maxFRC throughout the first year of life were derived for the infant cohort as a whole and also for subgroups of infants, based on parental asthma and smoking history. We conclude that lung function during the first year of life differs between genders and is adversely affected by in utero passive tobacco smoke exposure. Gender-specific predictive equations for V'maxFRC should be used during infancy.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.