Objective Early preterms (EP) (gestational age (GA) <32 weeks) report more respiratory symptoms than term healthy controls (HC). Compared to EP, late preterms (LP) (GA 32–35+6 weeks) receive little respiratory support in the neonatal period. The aim of the study was to investigate the respiratory symptoms of LP compared to HC and to EP.
Methods Community based cohort of children aged 3 years 9 months, stratified by GA (EP n = 534, LP n = 959, HC n = 566). Outcome variables; prevalence of respiratory symptoms determined by ISAAC Questionnaire and number of hospitalisations due to respiratory problems.
Results Compared to HC, LP reported more cough or wheeze during a cold (60% vs 48% p<0.001), cough or wheeze without a cold (19% vs 13% p = 0.002), nocturnal cough (32% vs 25%, p = 0.005), dyspnea (7% vs 4% p = 0.035) and use of medication (inhaled steroids 9% vs 6%, p = 0.044, β2-agonists 13% vs 11% p = ns, antibiotics 12% vs 7% p = 0.001). The number of hospitalisations due to respiratory problems during the first year of life was doubled compared to HC (6% vs 3%, p = 0.01). As expected, EP had significant more respiratory symptoms and more hospitalisations than both LP and HC.
Conclusion Late preterms are more vulnerable for respiratory problems than term born children during early childhood. Parents reported more symptoms like cough and wheeze, more medication use and more hospitalisations due to respiratory problems. Late preterms deserve more attention in pulmonary care than they currently receive.