Statement: Colds and chest infections in young children increases asthma risk

Having a cold, tonsillitis or laryngitis (upper respiratory infections) before the age of five increases the risk of asthma in later life by one and a half times, according to new research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress today (Sunday 10 September).

An international study of more than 150,000 children, from 16 countries including the UK, also found that those who had lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and general chest infections, were two to four times more likely to develop asthma or have worse lung function. 

The researchers at Erasmus MC University Medical School, in The Netherlands, analysed data of children born between 1989 and 2013, who had had respiratory tract infections between the age of six months and five years old.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said: “We know that that coughs and colds often make asthma symptoms worse or even trigger asthma attacks. 

“What is interesting about this study is that it suggests a link between early-life respiratory tract infections and an increased risk of asthma in later life. However, at this stage it cannot be said for certain whether the relationship is causal.

“It's difficult to say for sure what causes asthma and this study is yet another piece in the puzzle. What is needed is more research to helps us understand the causes of asthma, reduce asthma attacks, turn discoveries in the lab into new treatments and ultimately find a cure.”

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact the Asthma UK media team on, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

The Asthma UK Data Portal is a new online tool for journalists to access the latest figures and trends in asthma outcomes across the UK. Information on asthma facts and statistics can also be found on our website.

About Asthma UK

• In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
• Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
• Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
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