Time trends of the prevalence of asthma and allergic disease in Austrian children

Authors


Eva S. Schernhammer, MD, DrPH, Channing Laboratory, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Tel.: (617) 525 4648
Fax: (617) 525 2008
E-mail: eva.schernhammer@channing.harvard.edu

Abstract

After a substantial increase in the prevalence of atopic disease in Europe, recent studies indicate that a plateau has been reached. However, variation across countries and age groups exists. We studied the prevalence and time trends of asthma and allergic disease among schoolchildren in Austria, a country with traditionally low rates of asthma, hay fever, and eczema. As part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), symptoms and physician diagnoses of asthma and allergic disease of 13,399 Austrian children aged 6–7 yr and 1516 children aged 12–14 yr were surveyed between 1995 and 1997. A similar survey was conducted between 2001 and 2003. Among children aged 6–7 yr, significant increases were seen in the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma (+16%; p = 0.013), hay fever (+22%; p < 0.001), and eczema (+37%; p < 0.001) between 1995 and 2003. These changes were paralleled by an increase in the prevalence of symptoms typical for hay fever (itchy eyes and runny nose), but not by an increase in wheeze. Among children aged 12–14 yr, the lifetime prevalence of diagnosed asthma increased by 32%, of hay fever by 19%, and of eczema by 28% (all, p < 0.001). These changes were paralleled by increases in the prevalence of wheezing as documented by both questions before and after a video showing wheezing children but not by symptoms typical for hay fever such as itchy eyes and runny nose. In conclusion, in Austria, contrary to other European countries, the prevalence of asthma and allergic disease increased among schoolchildren. Additional studies are needed to continue monitoring the dynamics of the prevalence of asthma and allergic disease in Austria and to explore trends in their risk factors.

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