Methods: We analyzed data on 7,538 children aged 2 to 11 years who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine the cross-sectional associations of history of ear infections with prevalence of ever-diagnosed asthma and the prevalence of wheezing in the last year in US children.
Results: History of ear infections was significantly related to the lifetime prevalence of diagnosed asthma (prevalence odds ratio [POR], 1.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05 to 2.36) and to the prevalence of wheezing in the last year (POR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.22 to 2.37) after controlling for potential confounding variables. The number of ear infections was linearly and significantly related to the risk of asthma and wheezing in the last year. Among children with no diagnosis of asthma, there was a significant association between a history of ear infections and any wheezing in the last year (adjusted POR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.07 to 2.25).
Conclusions: Our study indicated strong and significant associations of a history of asthma and wheezing with the frequency of ear infections in a nationally representative sample of 7,538 children aged 2 to 11 years. These findings highlight the need for prospective studies to examine further the relationship between asthma and ear infections.