Asthma and ADHD: What's the Link?

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Considering the relationship between ADHD and asthma could help clinicians diagnose and treat patients earlier.
Considering the relationship between ADHD and asthma could help clinicians diagnose and treat patients earlier.

Significant links exist between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma, according to a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Researchers completed both a meta-analysis and a population-based study to examine the relationship.

For the meta-analysis, 49 datasets were incorporated and included 210,363 individuals with ADHD and 3,115,168 without ADHD. Asthma occurred in 16.9% of the individuals with ADHD and 11.5% of the individuals without ADHD. The pooled odds ratio (OR) for the relationship between ADHD and asthma was significant, at 1.66 (95% CI, 1.22-2.26). These results held up when analysis focused on the adjusted odds ratio (adjusted OR 1.53; 95% CI, 1.41-1.65) and post hoc sensitivity analysis (polled unadjusted OR, 1.62; 95% 1.23-2.12).

In the population-based study, of the 1,575,377 individuals included, 259,253 had asthma and 57,957 had ADHD. Asthma occurred in 24.8% of the individuals with ADHD and 16.1% of the individuals without ADHD. Again, the relationship between having ADHD and asthma was statistically significant (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.57-1.63). These results held up when adjusting for possible covariates (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.41-1.48). 

Including both types of research in 1 study substantially increases the quality of the findings but still cannot address all possible confounders or publication biases. Further research is needed to address the role of medications, longitudinal associations, and specific mechanisms for the relationship between ADHD and asthma.

The researchers concluded that there is a significant relationship between ADHD and asthma. Knowing this relationship, earlier diagnosis of ADHD in a patient with asthma or  of asthma in a patient with ADHD would provide earlier intervention and treatment.

Disclosures: This study was supported by the Swedish Research Council and Shire International GmbH. For a complete list of disclosures, please see the original article.

Reference

Cortese S, Sun S, Zhang J, et al. Association between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis and a Swedish population-based study. [published online July 24, 2018]. Lancet Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30224-4

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