Asthma among secondary schoolchildren in relation to the school environment

Authors


G. Smedje, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital, S-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden.

Summary

Background Poor indoor air quality has been suggested to be related to the increase in the prevalence of asthma that has occurred in the western world, especially among children and young persons. Apart from the home, school is the most important indoor environment for children.

Objectives The aims were to study the prevalence of current asthma among secondary pupils and its relationship to the school environment, but also to personal factors and domestic exposures.

Methods Data on asthmatic symptoms, other health aspects, and domestic exposures were gathered using a questionnaire which was sent to 762 pupils in the seventh form (13–14 years old) in 11 randomly chosen schools in the county of Uppsala in Sweden. Pupils answering‘yes’ to having had asthma diagnosed by a physician, and having had recent asthma attacks, or who used asthma medication were defined as having current asthma. Data on exposures at school were gathered by measurements in 28 classrooms. The relationship between asthma and exposures was analysed by multiple logistic regression.

Results The questionnaire was completed by 627 (82%). Current asthma was found among 40 pupils (6.4%). Current asthma was more common in those who had an atopic disposition, or food allergy, or who had attended a day care centre for several years. Controlling for these factors, current asthma was related to several factors in the school environment. There were more pupils with current asthma in schools that were larger, had more open shelves, lower room temperature, higher relative air humidity, higher concentrations of formaldehyde or other volatile organic compounds, viable moulds or bacteria or more cat allergen in the settled dust.

Conclusions Although the pupils attended school for a minor part of their time, our study indicates that the quality of the school environment is of importance and may affect asthmatic symptoms.

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