If you're a parent under a lot of stress, or suffering from depression, your children could be at greater risk of contracting asthma, according to a study led by Dr. Juan Celedon, chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Immunology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
A study of 339 sets of twins from Puerto Rico found that children whose mothers suffered from depression were at greater risk for hospitalization for asthma at ages 1 and 3, and were more likely to be diagnosed as having asthma at age 3.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in last month's edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Children whose fathers suffered from depression were more likely to be hospitalized for asthma and were more likely to use oral steroids to control their asthma. Oral steroids are used when symptoms can't be controlled with an inhaler alone.
About 6.8 million American children suffer from asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows airways. Puerto Ricans have the highest lifetime prevalence.
The parents of the twins were interviewed separately about their own stress, and about asthma in their children at ages 1 and 3. In addition, fathers were asked about symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and antisocial behavior, while mothers were asked about symptoms of depression.
"Most of the studies before this one have looked almost exclusively at the mothers," Dr. Celedon said.
The study indicated that if the father was suffering from a major depression, the likelihood that his children would exhibit asthma symptoms in the first year of life was 10 times greater, Dr. Celedon said. There was a fivefold risk that the child would need to use oral steroids to control his or her asthma.
For each one-point increment on the scale of depression that mothers reported, there was a sixfold increase in the likelihood her child would be hospitalized for treatment of asthma, he said.
Jack Kelly: email@example.com or 412-263-1476.