Could Babies Born in Winter Have Weaker Lungs?

Due this winter? You might want to consider this piece of news, which indicates that babies born during the season could be born with vulnerable lungs.

Babies Born in Winter Have Weaker Lungs Everett Collection/Shutterstock

It turns out, navigating your way to the hospital in a blizzard isn't the only prospect that comes with having a baby in the winter. According to a recent study, babies born during the colder months could have more vulnerable lungs than their peers born in other seasons.

The study from the University of Bergen found three developmental factors that can influence the lungs. Two of these factors are more obvious: if a mother smokes during pregnancy or if a child contracts a respiratory illness during childhood, the risk of developing vulnerable lungs is greater. But there's one factor that's a bit more surprising: Babies who are born during the winter months also have greater risk of having vulnerable lungs.

The study, led by professor Christine Svanes, was carried out based on the examination of people aged 40 to 70 years. Researchers sought out to determine whether factors from early in life could affect a person's longterm lung health.

"It is logical that early life development also affects the systems that maintain our body and repair damage. If so, this could explain why some people do not tolerate exposure to certain toxins in later life. And that is actually what we found," Svanes said, according to the study's release.

The link with smoking

According to her research, people exposed to any of these factors have lungs that decline faster, meaning the aging process of their lungs is accelerated. The good news? The presence of these early factors might only become apparent if the person starts smoking later in life.

"We can put it this way: smoking is dangerous for everyone, but these people are far more vulnerable to its effects. We can also imagine that they would be particularly vulnerable also to other factors, such as air pollution," Svanes said.

According to Svanes, the identification of these factors can lead to better preventative health care.

"This way we can concentrate the efforts on those who are the most vulnerable. We have limited resources for prevention, so it is important that the money is spent on those with the highest perceived risk," Svanes said. "If you get a 50 year-old to quit smoking, it is beneficial. If you get him or her to stop as a teenager, it is even better. But if the mother refrains from smoking before he or she is conceived, it might play an even bigger role for future overall health."