Background: During the last decades there has been extensive epidemiological research to explore the increasing prevalence of asthma and allergy in childhood. The worldwide variations in prevalence of these diseases necessitate regional rapports. Furthermore, time-trend analyses with comparable methods are important in order to monitor the rapidly changing prevalence of these diseases.
Methods: Three cross-sectional questionnaire-based studies of asthma and allergy in schoolchildren were conducted in the counties of Troms and Finnmark, in northern Norway in 1985, 1995 and 2000. The two former studies included children from randomly selected primary schools (n = 1794/1985, n = 1432/1995). The latter study was a part of ISAAC-II Europe study (n = 3853). Identical items of asthma and allergy were employed. The analyses comprised only children 9–11 years of age.
Results: The prevalence of asthma was 9.3, 13.2 and 13.8% in 1985, 1995 and 2000, respectively. However, great gender differences were detected; the prevalence of asthma increased in males from 1995 to 2000, from 14.1 to 17.0%, RR = 1.2 (95% CI 1.0–1.5), but decreased in females 1995 to 2000, from 12.3 to 10.5%, RR = 0.9 (95% CI 0.7–1.1). Furthermore, in children with asthma, a changing trend was found in the external factors that perceived symptoms, from typical allergens towards other, unspecific agents. The prevalence of self-reported atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome (AEDS) was 13.4, 21.1 and 20.8% in 1985, 1995 and 2000, respectively. The prevalence of self-reported allergic rhinoconjunctivitis was in 16.5, 24.7 and 29.6% 1985, 1995 and 2000, respectively, RR (2000/1995) = 1.2 (95% CI 1.1–1.3).
Conclusion: The prevalence of asthma in girls has reached a plateau and even decreased from 1995 to 2000 which is in contrast to the asthma prevalence in boys that tends to continuously increase. The prevalence of AEDS which increased substantially between 1985 and 1995 did not change from 1995 to 2000. However, the prevalence of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis increased steadily from 1985, 1995 to 2000.