Young children who have repeated ear infections are twice as likely to have asthma than youngsters with no history of such infections, according to a new study published Monday.
"The prevalence of ear infections has increased significantly over the years, paralleling the rise in asthma rates," said Kamal Eldeirawi, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the report, published in the journal Chest.
"The study confirms the association between the two conditions, showing that ear infections in early childhood may lead to asthma later in life."
Eldeirawi said that "it's possible that specific viruses or bacteria that cause recurrent ear infections may play a major role in the development of asthma. It also is possible that antibiotics that are commonly used to treat ear infections may increase the risk of asthma, but more research is needed in this area."
Between 5 million and 6 million children under age 5 suffer ear infections each year, and more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions for ear infections are written for children of all ages annually.
More than 6 million children in the United States under 14 have been diagnosed with the disorder that restricts lung airways. However, some experts say that up to half of all American children could have undiagnosed asthma.
The study included detailed medical histories between 1988 and 1994 of 7,538 children ages 2 to 11 years.
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