Parent–Toddler Bed-Sharing May Increase Asthma Risk

Jennifer Garcia

December 15, 2014

Toddlers who share a family bed are at greater risk of developing asthma during later years, according to a new study. Results of this study, by Maartje P.C.M. Luijk, PhD, from the School of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and the Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues, were published online December 10 in the European Respiratory Journal.

The researchers derived data for this project from a larger, population-based prospective cohort study. Using a parental questionnaire, researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Center evaluated bed-sharing practices among families with children at ages 2 and 24 months. Respiratory symptoms, specifically wheezing, were also assessed via questionnaire at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 years, and all children were assessed at least twice. The researchers included 6160 children in the analysis.

The researchers found that 22.8% of children shared a bed with their parents at 2 months of age, and 11.6% were bed-sharing at 2 years of age. At 6 years of age, the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma was 8.0%, and correlations between wheezing reported by the mother and physician-diagnosed asthma increased from 1 to 6 years (regression analysis results, 0.20, 0.26, 0.33, 0.33, and 0.41 at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 years, respectively,

Children who shared a bed with their parents at 24 months of age were more likely to experience respiratory signs between 3 and 6 years of age (odds ratio [OR], 1.42; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.15 - 1.74). This association remained significant after adjusting for confounders such as the child's sex, maternal educational level, and smoking. A physician diagnosis of asthma was also associated with bed-sharing at 24 months, but not at 2 months (unadjusted OR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.46 - 2.70). Of note, the study authors found no association between early wheezing and later bed-sharing. The findings “do indicate an association between bed-sharing in toddlerhood and later wheezing,” the authors explain.

"Our findings suggest that children who bed-shared in toddlerhood have higher odds of wheezing at ages three to six, and higher odds of being diagnosed with asthma at age six, " the authors write.

The authors acknowledge that limitations of the study include a lack of information on the use of asthma medications and a lack of more in-depth information on bed-sharing practices. In addition, in an effort to decrease the risk for bias by nonresponders, the researchers adjusted for confounding variables including child sex and age, maternal educational level, parity, maternal history of atopy, and body mass index.

The authors suggest that parents who share a bed with their child may be more aware of respiratory issues or may choose to have the child in bed with them as a means of monitoring their breathing. Given these considerations, the authors note that "[f]urther studies are needed to explore the effects of bed-sharing at later ages and to examine underlying causal mechanisms."

Funding for this study was provided by the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam; the Erasmus University Rotterdam; and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Eur Respir J. Published online December 10, 2014. Abstract

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