In comparison with a cohort of normal birth weight children, those of very low birth weight (<1501 g birth weight) had more wheezing illnesses and hospital readmissions for respiratory problems in the first 2 years of life; from 2 years to 8 years of age respiratory health was unrelated to birth weight. Lung function measurements at 8 years of age in very low birth weight children were similar to expected values; few children had severely abnormal lung function. On univariate analyses, forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expired volume in 1 second (FEV1), but not flow rates, were lower in children who had survived bronchopulmonary dysplasia. However, the univariate analyses were misleading, because bronchopulmonary dysplasia occurred more frequently with lower birth weight, and lower birth weight in turn was strongly related to reduced FVC and FEV1. After adjusting for birth weight and other potential confounding variables, FVC and FEV1 were unrelated to bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and to neonatal ventilation. Flow rates were largely uninfluenced by perinatal events, but were reduced in children with asthma or recurrent bronchitis at 8 years of age. Passive smoking was unrelated to lung function at 8 years of age. However, the effects of passive or active smoking, or perinatal events, on respiratory function or health beyond 8 years of age in very low birth weight survivors remain to be determined.

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