Increasing prevalence of allergic rhinitis but not asthma among children in Hong Kong from 1995 to 2001 (Phase 3 International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood)


Yu-Lung Lau, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
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There is a worldwide belief that the prevalence of asthma and other allergic diseases is increasing but the measures used in many studies are susceptible to systematic errors. We examined the trend of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema prevalence in school children aged 6–7 years in Hong Kong from 1995 to 2001 using standardized ISAAC methodology. There were 4448 and 3618 children participating in 2001 and 1995, respectively. The prevalence of life-time rhinitis (42.4% vs. 38.9%, p < 0.01), current rhinitis (37.4% vs. 35.1%, p < 0.03), current rhinoconjunctivitis (17.2 vs. 13.6%, p < 0.01) and life-time eczema (30.7% vs. 28.1%, p = 0.01) increased significantly. There was no significant change in prevalence of life-time asthma, life-time wheeze and current wheeze albeit a significant increase in severe asthma symptoms. We investigated a number of potential risk factors including sex, family history of atopy, sibship size, birth weight, respiratory tract infections, pet ownership and exposure to tobacco smoke. However, the increases in prevalence of rhinitis and eczema could not be entirely explained by the change of prevalence of these risk factors. The odds ratio OR for the study period remained significantly associated with current rhinitis (OR 1.31, 95% confidence intervals CI 1.17–1.46), current rhinoconjunctivitis (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.41–1.87) and life-time eczema (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.16–1.45) after adjustment for these confounding variables using logistic regression model. Further study is warranted to elucidate the factors contributing to the observable change in the prevalence of rhinitis in our population.