Physical, Sexual Abuse Linked to Asthma in Children

September 5, 2008

Puerto Rican children are more likely to have asthma if they have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse, according to a study published in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

FRIDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Puerto Rican children are more likely to have asthma if they have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse, according to a study published in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Robyn T. Cohen, M.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues surveyed 1,213 children (aged 5-13 years) in Puerto Rico, of whom 39.6 percent had asthma, and also surveyed their primary caretakers regarding the children's exposure to stress, violence and abuse.

The investigators found that in the past year, 14 percent of the children had witnessed violence, 7 percent had experienced violence and 6 percent had experienced physical or sexual abuse. Only physical or sexual abuse was associated with a greater likelihood of current asthma (odds ratio 2.52), health care for asthma (OR, 1.95) and use of asthma medication (OR, 2.35), the researchers report.

"Physical or sexual abuse is associated with high asthma morbidity among Puerto Rican children," Cohen and colleagues conclude. "Our findings highlight the importance of screening for asthma among young victims of childhood abuse, and to be aware of the possibility of physical or sexual abuse among children with asthma."

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