A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2016 | Number 1, Volume 30

Asthma med risk studied

Prenatal exposure to asthma medications may increase the risk of autism, a new study suggests. 

Nicole Gidaya and colleagues collected data on 5,200 individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and 52,000 controls in a case-control study using Denmark’s health and population registers. The researchers report that among children exposed prenatally to β-2-adrenergic receptor agonist drugs, the risk for ASD was elevated at all time points, including preconception (odds risk, 1.3) and the first, second, and third trimesters (odds risks 1.3, 1.5, and 1.4, respectively). 

However, Gidaya notes, “During an asthma exacerbation in pregnancy, the prenatal maternal stress response may be elevated, which would be harmful during a time when the fetal limbic system is considered to be the most vulnerable to such a stress response, especially before 32 weeks of gestation.” Thus, she says, the risks of asthma medications need to be weighed against their benefits.


“In utero exposure to β-2-adrenergic receptor agonist drugs and risk for autism spectrum disorders,” Nicole B. Gidaya, Brian K. Lee, Igor Burstyn, Yvonne Michael, Craig J. Newschaffer, and Erik L. Mortensen, Pediatrics, February 2016 (online). Address: Nicole Gidaya, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, [email protected]


Prenatal exposure to asthma drugs may boost autism risk,” Liam Davenport, Medscape Medical News, January 19, 2016.