Do Fall Babies Get More Asthma? Who Knows

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • The last few weeks have seen a flurry of reports on the link between developing asthma and being born in the fall season. The articles seem to be based mainly on a recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, that fall babies are more prone to asthma. Health Central's Dr. Fred Little wrote a piece about it as well.


    I all but ignored the reports until this week's New York Times headline: "Scorpios Get More Asthma, but Astrology Isn't to Blame."

    As a fall baby, a Scorpio in fact, as well as a person living with asthma, the headline caught my eye. I read on:

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    "A possible explanation is that autumn babies tend to be about 4 months old at the peak of cold and flu season. By that age, many babies are in day care and regularly exposed to the outside world. And while their lungs are still developing, they have yet to develop strong immune systems. As a result, fall babies are at particular risk to contract a severe winter virus, which may in turn increase their risk for asthma."


    Well, I have a question.

    I was a fall baby, born during a snowstorm, so the story goes, and my mother was told not to take me out for a while because it was too cold. So I probably missed that peak of colds and flu seasons. Also I was not in daycare; my mother took off work for a few years to stay home with me. So what about that? Not exposed to lots of colds and not in daycare - and still very asthmatic?


    Further down, this article bizarrely contradicts itself. After saying we, that is the fall babies, are exposed to more infections early, the article states that asthma is lower in other countries because they "... encounter more infections, so they may be better equipped to withstand less serious assaults associated with asthma, like mold and dust mites."


    So, wait a minute? If I had been more exposed, not kept at home, away from viruses and not in daycare, then I might not have developed asthma?


    Confused? Me too.


    US News and World report has an article based on the same Tennessee study where it seems that the study was more focused on the incidence of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (and possibly a vaccine for it) and how that virus may "cause asthma." Although to be sure, there is no one factor that causes asthma that is well understood: genetic factors play a roll as well as allergies and environmental exposure to allergens and respiratory infections.


    Doctors in these reports say avoiding having a fall baby isn't necessarily the answer but that: "...parents might want to take steps to try to reduce the risk of infection...try to avoid day care before the age of 3...also employ good hygiene and infection-control measures, such as staying away from sick children and washing their hands frequently."


    What does any of this mean? Who amongst us doesn't wash their hands regularly, employ good personal hygiene, try to stay away from sick work colleagues and sick children - that's common sense isn't it? Does that mean if we do all that our children won't have asthma?


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    This report, although on the surface it seems to say something about asthma and a slight correlation for birth month, ends up saying not much at all.


    What do you think? Any other Scorpio babies out there with an asthma story to tell?


Published On: December 10, 2008