Background

Research has suggested a possible link between the increases of asthma prevalence with the increase of childhood obesity over the past two decades. Less is known about the prevalence in preschool children. This study reports the rate of asthma and asthmatic symptoms in preschool children enrolled in Head Start program.

Methods

Study participants were children (n=359, 56% female, 74.7% Hispanic/Latino, average age = 3.52 years) enrolled in an ongoing obesity prevention trial. Weight status was assessed using the CDC Growth Charts. A parental survey was administered to gauge children’s health status and health habits at home at baseline. Logistical regression was performed to determine if weight status, speaking Spanish at home, parent education and health habits at home were associated with being diagnosed with asthma by a health professional and reporting asthmatic symptoms (wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing at night).

Results

The rate of underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese was 3.3%, 65.8%, 15.0%, and 15.8%, respectively. The rate of asthma was 11.2% while the rate of self-reported asthma symptoms was 12.6%. While not significant, diagnosed asthma was more prevalent in overweight/obese children (16.3%) than in underweight/normal children (9.0%; chi-square test p< 0.054). Weight status was not associated with reporting asthma (adjusted OR 1.89, CI 0.32, 4.36) or asthmatic symptoms with adjustment (adjusted OR 1.012, CI 0.42, 2.46) to child gender, speaking Spanish at home, and maternal education.

Conclusions

The association between weight status and asthma diagnosis dissipated after taking into consideration of child’s gender and family-related factors.