A new predictive tool has been created which can help forecast whether preschool children with and without early asthma-like symptoms actually go on to develop asthma in later childhood.

The results from the study of over 20,000 UK children are presented today at the British Thoracic Society’s Winter Meeting (Thursday 7th December 2017). The research was carried out by Imperial College London, Brunel University, University of Aberdeen, University of Manchester, University of Southampton and University of Bristol.

Many wheezy preschool children grow out of it, while others will develop asthma symptoms which can persist throughout adolescence and into young adulthood.

The study has identified the main factors that may predict persistent asthma, and one major factor that could help protect against it.

Some factors that predict ongoing asthma symptoms beyond school years were: early wheezing; allergy to house dust-mite and cats; having a diagnosis of asthma and hay-fever by age of five; having eczema and having a history of parental allergies.  The presence of a dog in the house was linked to early asthma symptoms going away. 

Although there are exceptions as some children with these risk factors will not develop asthma and some without these factors will, this tool can help doctors estimate the chance of asthma symptoms later in life.

The three year research study examined over 20,000 UK children within five different UK birth cohorts and considered two groups: all children who were recruited at birth; and children with wheezing symptoms at 2/3 (of a year) and 5 years of age.

Several studies have tried to establish tools to forecast persistent asthma but their clinical usefulness and whether they can reliably be used with the general public is still uncertain.

The predictive tool is different from previous ones in that it was developed using information from two birth cohorts and then validated in the three remaining birth cohorts. 

Silvia Colicino PhD student from Imperial College London, who developed the research, explains: 

“Our research showed there were many factors which can predict whether children will go on to have asthma by the age of 20. For example, a child with wheezing symptoms and eczema in early childhood is over 75% more likely to develop asthma up to the age of 20 years compared to a wheezy child without eczema at preschool age. Allergy to house dust-mite was also associated to an increase in risk of asthma later in life. 

Young children prone to wheezing were less likely to develop asthma in later life if they have a dog in the home in early childhood.  We need to further understand the reasons for this; previous studies have shown that dogs may carry ‘helpful’ protective bacteria, but they also carry allergens which may cause asthma symptoms. It is a mixed picture that we need to analyse further.    

Our predictive method performed well and has an overall accuracy of around 80%.

We hope this tool will prove useful to health professionals providing more certainty in predicting which child is likely to develop asthma later in life.  It should help to inform children and their parents whether further tests may be needed, whether their child should have a personalised treatment plan, or whether they can be reassured that the respiratory condition is unlikely to occur.”


For more information prior to the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting (that is, before Wednesday 6thDecember 2017), please contact:

Rosie Strachan: t: 020 7831 8778 or 07566 223644

Charlotte Sutton: t: 07958 279240

Ed Gyde t: 020 7831 8778 or 07809 574801   

During the British Thoracic Society meeting (from Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th December 2017):

Please contact the BTS news media office on t: 020 7798 4801/ 020 7798 4541 or the mobile numbers above.

Note to Editors:
The British Thoracic Society is the UK’s professional body of respiratory specialists. The Society seeks to improve standards of care for people who have respiratory diseases and to support and develop those who provide that care.  A registered charity, it has over 3,400 members including doctors, nurses, respiratory physiotherapists, scientists and other professionals with a respiratory interest. For more information, go to


The British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting takes place from Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th December 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London.