Risk factors for respiratory diseases in the first years of life

There are a number of factors that may occur at the beginning of a person’s life, but later cause problems with the lungs. These include the absence of breastfeeding, excess weight, mother taking paracetamol during pregnancy, complications during childbirth, air quality in the house and on the street.

This page is dedicated to the serious risk factors in the early stages of life and the problems they may cause.

Prenatal lung problems

While the fetus is in the uterus, its lungs do not always develop correctly. If the lungs develop incorrectly, the child has little chance of survival after birth. With an abnormal development of the lungs is associated 15% –   20% of neonatal deaths. This may be due to several reasons:

  • Insufficientspace in the womb
  • Geneticproblems
  • Lack ofnutritious substances

Vitamin A –   essential component of ensuring proper lung development. Mothers who lack this vitamin are more at risk of having children with abnormal lung development.

If doctors diagnose pulmonary hypoplasia in advance, they may try to correct the problems and stimulate proper lung development. This can be done in different ways:


During this procedure, the amniotic fluid is injected through the mother’s stomach into the space around the fetus. This provides additional fluid flow, if it is not enough. A lack of amniotic fluid can cause abnormal lung development in a child. Although this procedure can provide a more efficient scan of the fetus to help control its development, it is not indicated for improving lung development.

Thoracoamniotic shunting

In this procedure, a special drainage device is inserted into the chest of the fetus to drain any abnormal accumulations of fluid that may lead to an abnormal development of the lungs. However, it is usually performed too late in order to successfully prevent abnormal lung development.

Introduction inflatable balloon into the trachea

If the diaphragm in the fetus does not develop correctly, you can try to correct it directly in the uterus by surgery, but the more promising method is   Introduce the trachea to a tiny inflatable balloon that will not allow fluid to flow out of the lungs.

Low birth weight

Children whose birth weight is less than the average are more likely to have lung problems:

  • Pulmonaryinfections
  • Whistlingbreath
  • Problemswith the functioning lungs

Premature childbirth

Babies born before term, that is, before the 36th week of pregnancy, have an increased risk of long-term lung problems. Risk factors for premature babies are maternal infections and the age of the mother (under 17 and over 35).

The most common of the pulmonary diseases that premature babies suffer from is the so-called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which occurs when the baby is on oxygen for more than 28 days. This leads to a decrease in the number and size of the alveoli in the lungs and a decrease in the number of arteries, which makes breathing difficult.

BPD is characterized by rapid breathing, shortness of breath, shortness of breath and coughing, which requires more oxygen. This may be a temporary condition, but in some children the symptoms of the disease may persist even in adulthood, which increases their risk of developing chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Passive smoking

Both babies and unborn children are at risk from passive smoking. It is estimated that 20% of asthma cases are associated with parental smoking, and bronchiolitis is more often registered in children of smoking mothers. If a mother smokes during pregnancy, her baby is at risk for premature birth and low birth weight.

After a child is born, passive smoking can increase the risk of lung problems in childhood, including asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. The results of the study show that if the mother smokes, the risk of lung disease   in children under 2 years of age it increases by 72%.

Pulmonary infections

If a baby develops a pulmonary infection, it has an increased risk of lung problems in the future. The most common infection of the lungs in babies –   This is the so-called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In most children, RSV develops by the age of two, and its symptoms are in most cases similar to those of a cold.

However, in some children, this infection takes a severe form, and they develop a persistent cough, wheezing, fever and sudden breathing difficulties, which may require a hospital stay. This can lead to problems later in life,   in particular, the development of asthma and wheezing.Approximately 30% –   50% of children who develop wheezing as a result of infection in infancy develop asthma.

Of the other lung infections that can trigger long-term lung problems, adenoviral infection, human metapneumovirus and rhinovirus .

Whistling bronchitis

If a child develops hoarse bronchitis, then it increases the risk of accelerated weakening of lung function in the future, after 50 years. This may mean that in the future they will be more susceptible to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


  • 15% associated with abnormal lung development  –   20% of newborn deaths.
  • About 20% of asthma cases in children are associated with parental smoking.
  • In 20% of children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy,in the first 5 years of life bronchitis is diagnosed; in non-smoking mothers, this proportion is 15%.
  • Among children who have suffered RSV, the proportion of those who have wheezing breathing persists up to 5 years is significantly higher compared with those who did not have a severe form of this infection.
  • In terms of genetics, the state of the lungs of their grandparents reflects on the state of the lungs of their grandchildren,  in particular, they smoked or not.

Current needs

  • Women need to be informed about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy
  • New procedures need to be developed to help children whose lungs are still developing in the womb.
  • It is necessary to inform young parents about the harmful effects of smoking on children.
  • Pregnant women should be checked for maternal infections, smoking and age to try to reduce the risk of preterm birth and related problems.
  • It is necessary to minimize the factors that provoke the development of severe forms of RSV, in particular, smoking of mothers and premature birth
  • It is necessary to develop effective preventive means for protection against lung viruses and infections, first of all – against
  • It is necessary to improve the quality of care for premature babies.
  • With the increase in the proportion of surviving premature babies, the number of babies in need of treatment is growing.More attention needs to be paid to improving care for premature babies.


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