Background: It has been suggested that fetal growth and maturation have an impact on the development of allergic diseases later in life.
Objective: To examine the association between measures of fetal growth and allergic disease in children at age 5-7 years.
Methods: As part of the German International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood phase II surveys, a random sample of school beginners (n=1138) was examined in 1995. Data on anthropometric measures at birth and gestational age were obtained from maternal copies of birth records. Data on symptoms and doctor-diagnosed asthma, atopic dermatitis and hayfever were gathered by parental questionnaires. Atopic sensitization was assessed by serum IgE and skin prick tests to common aeroallergens. Children (741) had complete data for the explanatory variables of interest and were thus eligible for this analysis. Confounder-adjusted prevalence odds ratios (PORs) and means ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using multiple logistic and linear regression.
Results: Birth weight and gestational age were positively associated with atopic sensitization (Ptrend=0.025 and 0.035, respectively). Children with a low birth weight relative to head circumference had a decreased risk of sensitization (POR 0.44, 95% CI 0.21-0.91; Ptrend=0.020). Moreover, total serum IgE increased with increasing birth weight (Ptrend=0.042). No consistent relationship was observed between markers of fetal growth and wheezing, doctor-diagnosed asthma, atopic dermatitis and hayfever.
Conclusion: These data suggest that fetal growth and maturity are associated with atopic sensitization and total serum IgE levels in childhood.