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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • rhinitis;
  • eczema;
  • adolescents;
  • prevalence;
  • Africa

The prevalence of asthma and allergic disease in children has been increasing in developed countries, but there is little information on these trends in Africa. The aim of this study was to assess time trends in the symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic eczema among South African adolescents. The study was carried out by comparing cross-sectional data from two International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC phase I and phase III) questionnaire based surveys conducted 7 yr apart of self-reported symptoms in 13- to 14-yr-old adolescents. In both surveys, schools in the same geographical area in Cape Town, South Africa, were randomly selected. A school-based sample of 5178 (in 1995) and 5037 (in 2002) pupils participated. The 12-month prevalence of wheezing (16% vs. 20.3%), exercise-induced wheeze (21.5% vs. 32.5%), nocturnal cough (23.6% vs. 36.6%), sleep disturbance due to wheeze (9.6% vs. 16%), or severe wheeze (5.1% vs. 7.8%) increased significantly, as measured by the written questionnaire. A rise in asthma symptoms was confirmed by the video questionnaire responses, in which the 12-month prevalence of wheezing (6.5% vs.11.2%), exercise-induced wheeze (11.5% vs. 13.9%), nocturnal wheeze (3.9% vs. 5.3%), nocturnal cough (11.6% vs. 19.2%), or severe wheeze (5% vs. 7%) also increased significantly. There was a small increase in the percentage of children diagnosed with asthma from 1995 to 2002 (13.1% vs. 14.4%), this was not significant. The 12-month prevalence of symptoms of allergic rhinitis (30.4% vs. 38.5%), rhinoconjunctivitis (17.6% vs. 24.3%) and eczema (11.8% vs. 19.4%) also increased significantly. An increase in the prevalence of allergic symptoms occurred in girls and boys. Limitation of daily activity from nasal symptoms (22.3% vs. 37.8%) and sleep disturbance because of eczema (8.4% vs. 15.7%) increasingly affected quality of life on the quality of life. Symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic eczema in adolescents have increased over the past 7 yr in this geographical area. Allergic diseases are common in this group of adolescents and increasingly impair their quality of life.