Objective.

Some retrospective evidence suggests that children with a history of croup may be at increased risk of subsequently developing asthma, atopy, and diminished pulmonary function. The objective of this study was to determine the long-term outcome of croup (as diagnosed by a physician) in early life.

Methods.

Lower respiratory illnesses (LRIs) in the first 3 years of life were assessed in 884 children who were enrolled in a large longitudinal study of airway diseases at birth. Pulmonary function tests, markers of atopy, and wheezing episodes were studied at different ages between birth and 13 years.

Results.

Ten percent of children had croup with wheeze (Croup/Wheeze), 5% had croup without wheeze (Croup/No Wheeze), 36% had another LRI (Other LRI), and 48% had no LRI. Respiratory syncytial virus was more frequently isolated in children with Croup/Wheeze and Other LRI than in those with Croup/No Wheeze. There was no association between croup in early life and markers of atopy measured during the school years. Only children with Croup/Wheeze and with Other LRI had a significant risk of subsequent persistent wheeze later in life. Significantly lower levels of indices of intrapulmonary airway function were observed at ages <1 (before any LRI), 6, and 11 years in children with Croup/Wheeze and Other LRI compared with children with No LRI. Conversely, inspiratory resistance before any LRI episode was significantly higher in infants who later developed Croup/No Wheeze than in the other 3 groups.

Conclusions.

We distinguish 2 manifestations of croup with and without wheezing. Children who present with croup may or may not be at increased risk of subsequent recurrent lower airway obstruction, depending on the initial lower airway involvement, and preillness and postillness abnormalities in lung function associated with this condition.

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