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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • child;
  • allergy;
  • Africa

Abstract

A low level of allergic disorders has been generally reported in children from developing countries. A survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of symptoms of asthma and allergies among schoolchildren in Gondar, northwest Ethiopia. A standardized self-administered questionnaire developed by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children (ISAAC) was used. In total, 3,365 children aged 13–14 years were surveyed at school, with a response rate of 98.4%. The female to male ratio was 1.5:1. The 12-month-period prevalences of wheeze (16.2%), rhino-conjunctivitis (14.5%), and eczema (10.9%) were comparable to findings from Addis Ababa, but significantly higher than reported from Jimma. A striking seasonal pattern of rhinitis symptoms is observed during the months of September–December with a peak in November, corresponding with the main pollen season of the area. Overall, about 36% of the children reported symptoms of atopic disorders. However, the prevalence of diagnosed atopic diseases (8.6%) is less than a quarter of the symptom prevalence rate. This may reflect a generally poor awareness and low health service utilization, or underdiagnosis by health facilities. In conclusion, it appears that the prevalence of atopic diseases in Gondar area is high, and there is also wide variation within the country. This calls for further epidemiological studies with more objective assessments of atopy, such as allergen and bronchial hyperresponsiveness tests and ecological analysis. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2003; 35:427–432. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.