Respiratory symptoms are common in infancy. Nevertheless, few prospective birth cohort studies have studied the epidemiology of respiratory symptoms in normal infants. The aim of this study was to prospectively obtain reliable data on incidence, severity, and determinants of common respiratory symptoms (including cough and wheeze) in normal infants and to determine factors associated with these symptoms. In a prospective population-based birth cohort, we assessed respiratory symptoms during the first year of life by weekly phone calls to the mothers. Poisson regression was used to examine the association between symptoms and various risk factors. In the first year of life, respiratory symptoms occurred in 181/195 infants (93%), more severe symptoms in 89 (46%). The average infant had respiratory symptoms for 4 weeks and 90% had symptoms for less than 12 weeks (range 0 to 23). Male sex, higher birth weight, maternal asthma, having older siblings and nursery care were associated with more, maternal hay fever with fewer respiratory symptoms. The association with prenatal maternal smoking decreased with time since birth. This study provides reliable data on the frequency of cough and wheeze during the first year of life in healthy infants; this may help in the interpretation of published hospital and community-based studies. The apparently reduced risk in children of mothers with hayfever but no asthma, and the decreasing effect of prenatal smoke exposure over time illustrate the complexity of respiratory pathology in the first year of life.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.