Assessment of airflow limitation, airway inflammation, and symptoms during virus-induced wheezing episodes in 4- to 6-year-old children

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Jan;131(1):87-93.e1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.033. Epub 2012 Nov 27.


Background: It is disputed whether recurrent episodes of wheeze in preschool-aged children comprise a distinct asthma phenotype.

Objective: We sought to prospectively assess airflow limitation and airway inflammation in children 4 to 6 years old with episodic virus-induced wheeze.

Methods: Ninety-three children 4 to 6 years old with a history of mild, virus-induced episodes of wheeze who were able to perform acceptable fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (Feno) maneuvers and spirometry (with forced expiratory time ≥0.5 seconds) were followed prospectively. Lung function and Feno values were measured every 6 weeks (baseline) within the first 48 hours of an acute wheezing episode (day 0) and 10 and 30 days later. Symptom scores and peak flow measurement were recorded daily.

Results: Forty-three children experienced a wheezing episode. At day 0, Feno values were significantly increased, whereas forced expiratory volume at 0.5 seconds (FEV(0.5)) significantly decreased compared with baseline (16 ppb [interquartile range {IQR}, 13-20 ppb] vs 9 ppb IQR, 7-11 ppb] and 0.84 L [IQR, 0.75-0.99 L] vs 0.99 L [IQR, 0.9-1.07 L], respectively; both P < .001). Airflow limitation at day 0 was reversible after bronchodilation. FEV(0.5) and Feno values were significantly associated with each other and with lower and upper respiratory tract symptoms when assessed longitudinally but not cross-sectionally at all time points independently of atopy. Feno and FEV(0.5) values returned to baseline levels within 10 days.

Conclusions: Mild episodes of wheeze in preschoolers are characterized by enhanced airway inflammation, reversible airflow limitation, and asthma-related symptoms. Feno values increase significantly during the first 48 hours and return to personal baseline within 10 days from the initiation of the episode. Longitudinal follow-up suggests that symptoms, inflammation, and lung function correlate well in this phenotype of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exhalation*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / virology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Reproductive Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Reproductive Tract Infections / physiopathology
  • Reproductive Tract Infections / virology*
  • Respiratory Sounds / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Spirometry