Objective: To study the prevalence of respiratory and atopic symptoms in (young) adults born prematurely, differences between those who did and did not develop Bronchopulmonary Disease (BPD) at neonatal age and differences in respiratory health between males and females.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Nation wide follow-up study, The Netherlands.
Participants: 690 adults (19 year old) born with a gestational age below 32 completed weeks and/or with a birth weight less than 1500 g. Controls were Dutch participants of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS).
Main outcome measures: Presence of wheeze, shortness of breath, asthma, hay fever and eczema using the ECRHS-questionnaire
Results: The prevalence of doctor-diagnosed asthma was significantly higher in the ex-preterms than in the general population, whereas eczema and hay fever were significant lower. Women reported more symptoms than men. Preterm women vs controls: asthma 13% vs 5% (p < 0.001); hay fever 8% vs 20% (p < 0.001); eczema 10% vs 42% (p < 0.001). Preterm men vs controls: asthma 9% vs 4% (p = 0.007); hay fever 8% vs 17% (p = 0.005); eczema 9% vs 31% (p < 0.001) Preterm women reported more wheeze and shortness of breath during exercise (sob) than controls: wheeze 30% vs 22% (p = 0.009); sob 27% vs 16% (p < 0.001); 19-year-old women with BPD reported a higher prevalence of doctor diagnosed asthma compared to controls (24% vs 5% p < 0.001) and shortness of breath during exercise (43% vs 16% p = 0.008). The prevalence of reported symptoms by men with BPD were comparable with the controls.
Conclusion: Our large follow-up study shows a higher prevalence of asthma, wheeze and shortness of breath in the prematurely born young adults. 19-year-old women reported more respiratory symptoms than men. Compared to the general population atopic diseases as hay fever and eczema were reported less often.