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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Pulmonary function in adults with recent and former asthma and the role of sex and atopy

Yue Chen1*, Donna C Rennie23, Punam Pahwa2 and James A Dosman2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451, Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8 M5, Canada

2 Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan, 103, Hospital Drive, P.O. Box 120, R.U.H, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0 W8, Canada

3 College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, 107, Wiggins Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 5E5, Canada

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2012, 12:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-12-32

Published: 29 June 2012



Pulmonary function is not fully reversible in asthma in children and may continue into adult life. This study was to determine the association between asthma and reduced pulmonary function in adults and the modification by sex and atopic status.


A cross-sectional study of 1492 adults aged 18 years or over was conducted in a rural community. Atopy, height, weight, waist circumference (WC) and pulmonary function were measured. Participants with ever asthma were those who reported by questionnaire a history of asthma diagnosed by a physician during lifetime. Participants who had former (only) asthma were those who reported having physician-diagnosed asthma more than 12 months ago. Participants who had recent asthma were those who reported having asthma during the last 12 months.


Men had higher values of forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) compared with women, but FEV1/FVC ratio showed no significant difference between sexes. Atopic status was not related to pulmonary function and the average values of the pulmonary function testing variables were almost the same for non-atopic and atopic individuals. Individuals with ever, recent or former asthma had significant lower values of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio than those who reported having no asthma, and the associations tended to be stronger in men than in women. The interaction between atopy and asthma was not statistically significant.


Adults who reported having recent asthma or former asthma had reduced pulmonary function, which was significantly modified by sex but not by atopic status.

Asthma; Atopy; Survey; Lung function; Sex