Background: It has been hypothesized that day care--related infections may explain the inverse relation between day care attendance in early life and asthma in childhood.
Objective: To examine the relation between day care attendance or respiratory tract illnesses in the first year of life and wheezing and asthma in the first 4 years of life among children with a parental history of atopy who were followed up from birth.
Results: Day care attendance in the first year of life was inversely associated with geometric mean total serum IgE level (12.9 [+/-1 SD = 3.3, 51.4] IU/mL for day care vs 18.5 [[+/-1 SD = 5.3, 64.7] IU/mL for no day care; P =.03) at 2 years of age but not significantly associated with wheezing at or after 2 years of age. Having at least 1 physician-diagnosed lower respiratory tract illness in the first year of life was significantly associated with recurrent wheezing (odds ratio [OR], 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-4.1) and asthma (OR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1-5.5) at 4 years of age, but not with any wheezing (infrequent and frequent) at 3 years or older. Illnesses of the upper respiratory tract (> or = 1 physician-diagnosed upper respiratory tract illness or > or = 3 episodes of nasal catarrh) in the first year of life were associated with any wheezing (frequent and infrequent) between the ages of 1 and 4 years, but not with recurrent wheezing or asthma at 4 years of age.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that among children with a parental history of atopy the protective effect of day care attendance in early life against the development of atopy has begun by 2 years of age, and that a protective effect of day care attendance in early life against wheezing may not be observed until after 4 years of age.