Air pollution and childhood respiratory consultations in primary care: A systematic review

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Background: Outdoor air pollution is a known risk factor for respiratory morbidity worldwide. Compared with the adult population, there are fewer studies that analyse the association between short-term exposure to air pollution and respiratory morbidity in children in primary care. Objective: To evaluate whether children in a primary care setting exposed to outdoor air pollutants during short-term intervals are at increased risk of respiratory diagnoses. Methods: A search in Medline, the Cochrane Library, Web of Science and Embase databases throughout March 2023. Percentage change or risk ratios with corresponding 95% CI for the association between air pollutants and respiratory diseases were retrieved from individual studies. Risk of bias assessment was conducted with the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) for cohort or case-control studies and an adjusted NOS for time series studies. Results: From 1366 studies, 14 were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria. Most studies had intermediate or high quality. A meta-analysis was not conducted due to heterogeneity in exposure and health outcome. Overall, studies on short-term exposure to air pollutants (carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter ≤10 μm (PM10)) were associated with increased childhood respiratory consultations in primary care. In general, exposure to ozone was associated with a reduction in respiratory consultations. Conclusions: The evidence suggests CO, SO2, NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 are risk factors for respiratory diseases in children in primary care in the short term. However, given the heterogeneity of the studies, interpretation of these findings must be done with caution. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42022259279.

Original languageEnglish
Article number326368
Pages (from-to)297-303
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2024

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