It has been hypothesized that day care–related infections may explain the inverse relation between day care attendance in early life and asthma in childhood.
To examine the relation between day care attendance or respiratory tract illnesses in the first year of life and wheezing and asthma in the first 4 years of life among children with a parental history of atopy who were followed up from birth.
Day care attendance in the first year of life was inversely associated with geometric mean total serum IgE level (12.9 [±1 SD = 3.3, 51.4] IU/mL for day care vs 18.5 [±1 SD = 5.3, 64.7] IU/mL for no day care; P = .03) at 2 years of age but not significantly associated with wheezing at or after 2 years of age. Having at least 1 physician-diagnosed lower respiratory tract illness in the first year of life was significantly associated with recurrent wheezing (odds ratio [OR], 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-4.1) and asthma (OR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1-5.5) at 4 years of age, but not with any wheezing (infrequent and frequent) at 3 years or older. Illnesses of the upper respiratory tract (≥1 physician-diagnosed upper respiratory tract illness or ≥3 episodes of nasal catarrh) in the first year of life were associated with any wheezing (frequent and infrequent) between the ages of 1 and 4 years, but not with recurrent wheezing or asthma at 4 years of age.
Our results suggest that among children with a parental history of atopy the protective effect of day care attendance in early life against the development of atopy has begun by 2 years of age, and that a protective effect of day care attendance in early life against wheezing may not be observed until after 4 years of age.