Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

The natural history of childhood asthma to adult life.

Br Med J 1980; 280 doi: (Published 14 June 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;280:1397
  1. A J Martin,
  2. L A McLennan,
  3. L I Landau,
  4. P D Phelan


    A randomly selected group of 331 children who had started to wheeze in childhood and a control group of 77 children were prospectively studied clinically and physiologically from 7 to 21 years of age. Most subjects improved during adolescence and about 55% of those whose wheezing had started before 7 years and stopped before adolescence remained wheeze free. Forty-five per cent of subjects who had apparently ceased to wheeze at 14 years had minor recurrences of wheezing between 14 and 21 years of age. Fewer than 20% of those with persistent symptoms in childhood had become totally wheeze free during adolescence, although there was amelioration in symptoms. Girls did less well during adolescence than boys, so that there was no longer an increased preponderance of boys with increasing severity of asthma. Normal growth was achieved in all grades despite the persistence of symptoms in many cases. At 21 years of age features of airways obstruction were often found during an interval phase, especially in those who had more persistent symptoms.