Co-occurrence of autism and asthma

Asthma is approximately 35 % more common in autistic children; screening may be an efficient approach to reduce risk of morbidity due to asthma”.

The study findings reported by Stanley Kotey and colleagues* based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the United States add to an increasingly important body of research looking at a possible correlation between the chronic inflammatory condition affecting the airways and the presence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Based on information derived from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) dataset, a resource looking at various factors that may influence the physical and emotional health of children and young adults living in the US, researchers concluded that asthma was observed more frequently when a diagnosis of ASD was received. After adjusting their analyses for various potentially confounding factors such as age, body mass index and second hand tobacco smoke exposure, researchers concluded that asthma may be up to 20% more frequently reported alongside ASD. Investigators also indicated that the prevalence of autism in their sample was close to 2% of their total population, in line with other prevalence estimates.

Allied to other investigations that have hinted at a possible link between asthma and autism, the Kotey data asks some intriguing questions about the nature of any correlation between the conditions. Whether this implies some shared aetiological factors being involved such as overlapping genetic or environmental factors being associated with some cases is still a question requiring further investigation. Factors such as some role for the immune system, our changing exposure patterns to pollution and microbes, and the use of certain types of medication may play some role in the observed association although observations of causality – autism causing asthma or asthma causing autism – were not indicated from the current work.


* Kotey S. et al. Co-occurrence of Autism and Asthma in a Nationally-Representative Sample of Children in the United States. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jul 6.

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