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Childhood asthma: Paternal smoking plus other risk factors

Would-be fathers shouldn’t smoke. It can lead to childhood asthma in their kids at a later stage. ©Shutterstock

The risk of childhood asthma revs up in case of prenatal exposure to paternal smoking, finds a new study. Read on to know about the other risk factors of this respiratory ailment.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : June 6, 2019 3:29 PM IST

There have been reams of research stating that prenatal exposure to maternal smoking increases the risk of childhood asthma in kids. Now, a new study reveals that even paternal smoking can have similar side-effects on a child's respiratory health. According to this research, featured in the journal Frontiers in Genetics, prenatal exposure to paternal tobacco smoking (PTS) can lead to a significant change in the DNA coding of children. This can increase their risk of developing childhood asthma later in life.

Asthma is a respiratory ailment characterised by mild to severe breathing difficulty. It also comes with frequent coughing and wheezing.


The study accounted for 1629 children. Researchers assessed 1348 kids from birth to 18 months and 756 kids from birth to six years. The result found that infants with prenatal PTS exposure were at significant higher risk of developing childhood asthma by the age of six as compared to those whose fathers did not smoke (30.9 vs. 22.8%).

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According to the findings of this study, high PTS exposure before birth increases the level of methylation in genes like LMO2, IL10 and GSTM1 in children. These genes play a crucial role in the immune function and have a significant link with asthma risk too. Methylation is a process that involves the addition of a methyl (CH3) group to DNA. It modifies the function of the genes and affects gene expression. The higher the level of methylation, the higher the risk of childhood asthma.


True that parental smoking be a risk factor for childhood asthma. However, there are various other risk factors that can be the main culprit behind your child's poor respiratory health. Here, we give you a low-down about the other risk factors.

Medical history of allergic reactions

Allergic rhinitis (AR), also known as hay fever share similar traits with asthma. AR and asthma both are heterogeneous disorders. Notably, a heterogeneous condition can have multiple causes. If your kid develops AR early in life, he or she is more likely to develop asthma while growing up. A study published in the journal Thorax noted that children wwith AR were at significant risk of asthma. The study accounted for 157 children with AR symptoms and 76.2 per cent of them showed signs of asthma.


Obesity often comes with a number of health complications like sleep disorder, bone fractures, high cholesterol levels, so on and so forth. Being obese can be a prominent risk factor of childhood asthma. According to a study published in the journal BMJ, obese children are at one third higher risk of developing asthma as compared to those with a healthy body weight.

The score of our body mass index (BMI) tells us whether our weight is healthy or not. It is calculated by dividing a person's body weight (measured in kg) by his height (measured in metres squared). If your kid's body mass index (BMI) is higher than 30, you need to be extremely cautious about his overall health and well-being. A BMI below 18.5 means your child is underweight, if it is between 18.5 to 24.9, then the weight is normal. However, if these numbers go above 25, you should seek medical help and make the necessary lifestyle modifications.

Air pollution

Air pollution is usually known to worsen asthma symptoms. But did you know that prolonged exposure to the contaminated environment can up your child's risk of developing asthma too? Yes, toxic elements in the air can cause a blockage in the airways which leads to the onset of an asthma attack. In a study published in the Journal ofAsthma, the researchers revealed that outdoor air pollution affects the appearance and exacerbation of asthma in children.

On the other hand, another study in the journal Advances in Respiratory Medicine noted the impact of indoor air pollution on respiratory health. It found that indoor tobacco smoke and usage of biomass for cooking played a pivotal role in causing respiratory ailments in children.

Exposure to these two indoor pollutants increased the chance of childhood asthma in kids. Notably, the study accounted for 3104 children out of whom 23.2 per cent participants developed asthma.

Family history of asthma

If you or your partner has a medical history of allergies or asthma, you might pass on this respiratory ailment to your kid. Even if your parents have this condition, it can affect your children later on.

Asthma is a condition that can be caused by both genetic as well as environmental factors. In a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the researchers found that family history plays a significant role in the development of childhood asthma. Kids whose parents were living with asthma were twice more likely to develop asthma, found the survey. These numbers doubled up if the child's parent and grandparent, both. were diagnosed with this respiratory disorder. The study authors accounted for 2552 children.


If your kid is suffering from GERD, a digestive disorder, he or she is more likely to develop asthma. GERD affects the lower oesophageal sphincter ring of muscles between the oesophagus and the stomach. Some estimates suggest that half of all the children diagnosed with asthma suffer from GERD and vice-versa.

Research also says that if you take heartburn pills during your gestational period, you are increasing the chance of childhood asthma in your little one at a later stage. This is the finding of a study conducted at the University of Edinburgh. The study authors explained that for the treatment of GERD, doctors prescribe drugs like proton pump inhibitors. These are the main culprits behind the increased risk of asthma in kids.

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