Scientists say that with increasing numbers of babies surviving premature birth, childhood asthma is set to become a significant health problem.
The research showed that average asthma rates rose to 14% in babies born prematurely, defined as at least three weeks early.
Those born more than three weeks before the usual 40-week pregnancy term were almost 50% more likely than full-term babies to develop asthma. And babies born more than two months early were three times more at risk.
New research has shown that being born prematurely can triple a baby's risk of developing childhood asthma, new research has shown.
A study suggests the link between pre-term birth and asthma, or wheezing conditions, is higher than was previously thought.
Asthma is already the most common chronic disease in childhood, affecting around 8% of offspring born after a normal-length pregnancy.
Scientists have found a renegade gene which could be the direct cause of severe asthma in young children.
The gene, CDHR3, is especially active in epithelial cells lining the inner surfaces of the airways.
Researchers studied and compared the complete genetic codes, or genomes, of 3,695 Danish children and adults with asthma, including a number of children under the age of six.
Lead researcher Dr Hakon Hakonarson, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (Chop) in the US, said: "Because asthma is a complex disease, with multiple interacting causes, we concentrated on a specific phenotype - severe, recurrent asthma occurring between ages two and six.
"Identifying a risk-susceptibility gene linked to this phenotype may lead to more effective, targeted treatments for this type of childhood asthma."
Asthma sufferers have been urged to be more vigilant after a poll found that half of those with the condition do not think they are at risk from a fatal attack.
Asthma UK said that out of 50,000 sufferers they spoke to, 52 per cent do not think they are at risk, but nine out of ten are mistaken.
"Millions of people with asthma are unaware that the condition can be fatal and that they are regularly taking huge risks with their lives," said Asthma UK's chief executive Neil Churchill.
With mortality 50% higher than the EU average, and hospital admissions significantly more common than elsewhere in the developed world, most people working in respiratory disease today will recognise that there is considerable scope for improving asthma care in this country.
We hope that, by outlining priority areas for quality improvement, this new quality standard document will mark a significant step towards the kind of world-class care everyone working in the industry wants for the four and a half million people living with asthma across England.
We're delighted that a quality standard is now in place for asthma. This will really help to improve the quality of care provided for one of the most common long-term conditions - so its no exaggeration to say that if this is successful, it could change millions of lives.
We're particularly pleased to see the inclusion of personal asthma action plans. People who have an action plan are four times less likely to need to be admitted to hospital, but only a tiny proportion of people with asthma are currently offered one. Making sure this is implemented will be the next key test of asthma care in the NHS.
Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disorder which affecting the airways. Allergic asthma is the most common type and is triggered by antibodies produced in response to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or moulds.
There are currently more than 5.4 million people in the UK being treated for asthma and about 1.1 million of them are children. There were 1,131 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2009 (12 were children aged 14 years or under), which is, on average, 3 people per day.
The health watchdog wants to change the way people with asthma are cared for and improve the quality of care patients receive. Among the 11 points set out by NICE are:
- People with asthma receive a structured review at least annually
- People aged 5 years or older with a severe or life-threatening acute asthma are given oral or intravenous steroids within 1 hour of seeing a doctor
- People with severe, or 'difficult' asthma are offered an assessment by a multidisciplinary difficult asthma service
The new guidelines apply only in England.
An IVF birth more than doubles the likelihood of a child developing asthma, research has shown.
In the most extreme cases the risk is increased almost five times, according to new study findings.
Children conceived with artificial help are also more likely to wheeze or take anti-asthmatic medicines by the age of five.
Scientists discovered the link after analysing data on 18,818 children from across the UK born between 2000 and 2002.
But they point out that the association may not be causal, and the chances of a child conceived after IVF treatment becoming asthmatic are still slim.
Doctors have reportedly discovered a child's risk of developing an allergic disease is doubled if a parent of the same sex has suffered from it. Daybreak's Cordelia Kretzschmar reports.