FRIDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children of women who experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy may be at greater risk for asthma, according to new research.

The study of 279 inner-city black and Hispanic women adds weight to research previously conducted among white families that found children are particularly susceptible to asthma-related risks during the prenatal period.

The findings are published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

"Approximately 70 percent of mothers who said they experienced high levels of anxiety or depression while they were pregnant reported their child had wheezed before age 5," study lead author Marilyn Reyes, a researcher at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health in New York City, said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"Understanding how maternal depression affects a child's respiratory health is important in developing effective interventions," Reyes added.

The research team said common asthma symptoms include:

  • Coughing, particularly during the night
  • Wheezing or whistling while breathing
  • Difficulty breathing that causes the skin around the ribs or neck to sink in
  • Frequent chest colds

The study authors noted that children who experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis could have asthma and should see an allergist.

"The symptoms of pediatric asthma can range from a nagging cough that lingers for days or weeks to sudden and scary breathing emergencies," allergist Dr. Rachel Miller, study senior author, said in the news release. "With the right treatment, your child can sleep through the night, avoid missing time from day care or preschool, and breathe easy."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on childhood asthma.