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Young people with cerebral palsy “twice as likely” to develop asthma, study reveals

Young people with cerebral palsy and/or other developmental disabilities are more than twice as likely to develop asthma compared to peers without a disorder, a major study has revealed.

The research, published in peer-reviewed journal JAMA, suggests that medical professionals should prioritise testing for breathing conditions in children living with the life-long condition.

According to the report, 16 per cent of young people up to the age of 17 with “physical, learning, language and behavioural limitations that result in functional challenges” have asthma, compared to just six per cent of the general population.

While the relationship between developmental disorders and asthma is unclear, the study authors suggested that the condition could be triggered by “increased inflammation caused by stress”.

Although easily treated, asthma can cause serious breathing problems, particularly in young people unable to keep symptoms – such as breathlessness, a tight chest, and coughing – under control.

“For some of these children, it may be difficult to communicate their discomfort or need for medication,” said co-author Sarah Messiah, who is a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences.

“Parents of children with disabilities or delays may want to ask their paediatrician to screen for asthma, especially if their child shows or starts to show any signs of distressed breathing, wheezing, etc.”

She added: “It may also be important to screen very young asthmatic children for disabilities and delays.”

According to the latest figures, around one in every 400 children in the UK is born with cerebral palsy. The lifelong condition causes serious mobility problems over time, affecting posture, balance, and co-ordination.

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