If you have a family history of asthma and are thinking of having a baby soon, some experts suggest you do your best to plan the season in which your child will be born in order to reduce the risk of newborn asthma. While this may sound strange at first, the birth timing can actually impact your baby's health status, according to some new research findings.

The Latest Findings

A new study reveals that the time of year when your child is born does indeed affect his or her asthma risk factors. According to research that was led by experts at the Center for Asthma Research at Vanderbilt University, newborn asthma rates are highest among babies who are born four months before cold and flu season peaks (which usually occurs in the middle of winter although there is some variation from year to year).

The reason the birth season seems to matter is that when children get respiratory viruses in infancy, they may be more prone to having asthma later. Therefore, autumn babies who are exposed to lots of germs in the winter that can make them sick seem to be at the very highest risk.

In fact, the researchers, who studied more than 95,000 children in Tennessee to learn more about the connection birth timing has on respiratory health, found a 30 percent increase in asthma symptoms among those participants who were born in the fall compared with their counterparts born in other seasons.[i]

Timing and Genetics Play a Part

While timing therefore seems to be a significant piece of the newborn asthma equation, genetics may factor in as well, although the jury is still out on exactly how the two factors come into play. Researchers did, however, notice that among those children born in the fall who developed asthma, many were genetically predisposed to this respiratory condition, as well as to contracting bronchiolitis. Further, in autumn children with a history of asthma in their families, the bronchiolitis was more likely to progress into newborn asthma than among children with no family asthma link. Therefore, one possible hypothesis is that the combination of timing and genetics may come together to put children born in the fall at the very highest risk.

What You Can Do

While these findings give new meaning to the idea of planning ahead, you may wonder just how you can actually apply the information to help keep your future children as healthy as you can.

At the moment, researchers are exploring the effectiveness of creating a vaccine for babies that are at high risk to help prevent them from getting sick. In the meantime, if you or your spouse has a family history of asthma or other respiratory conditions, consider trying to plan your conception so that your child will be born in the spring or summertime to minimize his or her asthma risk.[ii]


[i] Evidence of a Causal Role of Winter Virus Infection

during Infancy in Early Childhood Asthma. Pingsheng Wu, William D. Dupont, Marie R. Griffin, Kecia N. Carroll, Edward F. Mitchel, Tebeb Gebretsadik, and Tina V. Hartert.  Published in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society. (You can access the information at http://www.thoracic.org/sections/publications/press-releases/resources/120108%20bronchiolitis%20asthma%20art.pdf.)

[ii] http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/health&id=6512157.