Background and objectives: To analyse the relationship between prenatal and postnatal tobacco exposure and the development of respiratory and allergy symptoms during the first 4 years of life.
Patients and methods: Prospective and multicentred cohort study that included the subjects belonging to AMICS (Asthma Multicentred Infant Cohort Study) located in Ashford (England), Barcelona and Minorca (Spain). We recruited 1611 children, followed from the pregnancy to the 4th year of life, whose parents annually answered a questionnaire on their tobacco consumption and their children's respiratory and allergy health. In the Barcelona cohort (n=487) a tobacco exposure biomarker (cotinine) was analysed on several matrices.
Results: Prenatal tobacco exposure is associated with a greater risk of hospitalisation due to respiratory infection, particularly in the second year of life, whereas postnatal tobacco exposure is associated more strongly with the presence of late wheezing presence and increases in the chance of being diagnosed with asthma at 4 years of age. The children prenatally and postnatally exposed had more persistent wheezing, persistent rhoncus, early cough, a higher number of upper respiratory infections per year and a greater number were diagnosed with asthma. The higher the levels of cotinine measured, the higher was the risk for wheezing. No relationship was seen between tobacco exposure and atopic symptoms.
Conclusions: Passive smoke exposure during pregnancy and childhood has very distinct clinical respiratory effects in children. Therefore, smoking cessation of childbearing age women must be a priority of preventive medicine.