Washington, Aug 16 : Boys may be more apt to have childhood asthma than girls, but they're also more likely to grow out of it in the adolescence, say a new study.
What's more, boys have a decreased incidence of asthma in the post-pubertal years, the study added.
This indicates that there may be a buried mechanism in asthma development, according to a prospective study that analyzed airway responsiveness (AR) in more than 1,000 children with mild to moderate asthma over a period of about nine years.
"We wanted to investigate what was behind the observed sex differences in asthma rates and AR," says lead researcher, Kelan G. Tantisira, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
"This is the first study to prospectively examine the natural history of sex differences in asthma in this manner," Tantisira added.
The study has been published in the second issue for August of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.
In the study, Dr. Tantisira and colleagues used data from the ongoing Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) that enrolled 1041 children from 5 to 12 years of age with mild to moderate persistent asthma and performed annual spirometric testing with methacholine challenges to quantify their AR.
After an average of 8.6 years and each individual had undergone eight to nine annual methacholine challenges, the researchers were able to identify a clear pattern: when it came to the amount of methacholine it took to provoke airway constriction, the girls' reactivity did not change markedly over the years.
In contrast, boys became increasingly tolerant over time to larger and larger doses of methacholine, suggesting a possible decrease in disease severity.
By the age of 16, it took more than twice as much methacholine to provoke a 20 percent constriction in the boys' airway on average as it did with the girls.
What's more, by age 18, only 14 percent of the girls did not demonstrate any significant degree of airways responsiveness, compared to 27 percent of boys.
"While our results were not unexpected, they do point to intriguing potential mechanisms, to explain the gender differences in asthma incidence and severity. Especially intriguing is that the differences in gender begin at the time of transition into early puberty." said Dr. Tantisira.