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Can Asthma as a Child Increase Risk of COPD as an Adult?

2 Aug 2014
| Under COPD, Lung Disease | Posted by
Asthma and COPD Lung Institute

Cough! Cough! It’s the middle of the night when you are slowly woken up to the sounds of your child having difficulty breathing. Rousing out of bed, you walk down the hall to check on them. This is the third night in a row that asthma has attacked. If you are a parent with a child who suffers from asthma, then this may sound all too familiar.

Asthma has multiple causes and it is not uncommon for two or more different causes to be present in one child. As children with asthma get older though, what does the future have in store? Does the risk of COPD increase as an adult?

Asthma and COPD: What’s the Link?

Asthma is a leading chronic childhood disease affecting approximately 10 percent of the national population. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic adult disease that is the third leading cause of death. Some patients can have both asthma and COPD and studies show a direct connection between severity of asthma as a child and the occurrence of COPD later in life. Meaning that children who suffer from severe, persistent asthma are nearly 32 times more likely at risk of COPD in adulthood and will probably develop the condition.

According to the American Lung Association, there are several similarities and differences between asthma and COPD. Here are a few:


  • Both conditions are diseases that cause chronic inflammation of the airways and limit airflow.
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing are all common symptoms.
  • Smoking and air pollution can both cause exacerbation to the asthma or COPD sufferer.
  • Both conditions are diagnosed using a spirometry test.


  • Asthma is reversible, where COPD is irreversible.
  • The inflammation occurring in asthma and COPD are different. Asthma is primarily caused by allergies, where COPD is caused by bacteria.
  • Asthma and COPD respond differently to anti-inflammatory medications due to the differences in inflammation.
  • The goal of treatment is different for both diseases. Asthma is treated to suppress chronic inflammation, whereas COPD is treated to reduce symptoms.

Research Says…

Some research has found that there is a higher risk of COPD when asthma is preset as a child. In an article posted by ScienceDaily, a study was published about the increased risk of COPD from children who suffered from asthma. The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne presented these findings at the 2010 American Thoracic Society International Conference in New Orleans.

According to the study, children with severe asthma were more than 30 times at a higher risk of COPD developing when they were adults as compared to children without asthma. Children born in 1957 were recruited at age 7 and tracked until their 50th birthdays. At the time they were recruited, the children were placed into four groups: those who did not experience wheezing or asthma symptoms, those who experienced occasional asthma such as wheezing associated with a viral respiratory infection, those who had persistent asthma not associated with a viral respiratory infection, and those who had severe, persistent asthma.

The objective was to see which children developed COPD as adults. At age 50, 197 of the surviving participants answered a detailed questionnaire and underwent lung function testing. COPD was identified in 28 of the participants and was found to be more common among males. There was a direct correlation between the severity of the asthma as a child and the incidence of COPD as an adult.

COPD is a life-threatening illness that can’t be cured, but can be effectively treated. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial to helping control symptoms of COPD. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COPD and is interested in cellular therapy, then contact us at the Lung Institute or call 888-745-6697 today.

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