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Keywords:

  • allergies;
  • childhood;
  • ISAAC;
  • rhinoconjunctivitis;
  • prevalence;
  • time trends

In Phase III of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) time trends in the prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms were analysed. Cross-sectional questionnaire surveys with identical protocols and questionnaires were completed a mean of 7 yr apart in two age groups comprising 498,083 children. In the 13- to 14-yr age group 106 centres in 56 countries participated, and in the 6- to 7-yr age group 66 centres in 37 countries participated. A slight worldwide increase in rhinoconjunctivitis prevalence was observed, but the variations were large among the centres and there was no consistent regional pattern. Prevalence increases in the older children exceeding 1% per year were recorded in 13 centres, including 3 of 9 centres in Africa, 2 of 15 in Asia-Pacific, 1 of 8 in India, 3 of 15 in Latin America, 3 of 9 in Eastern Europe and 1 of 34 in Western and Northern Europe. Decreasing rhinoconjunctivititis prevalence of similar magnitude was only seen in four centres. The changes were less pronounced in the 6- to 7-yr-old children and only in one centre did any change exceed 1% per year. The decrease in highest prevalence rates in ISAAC Phase I suggests that the prevalence has peaked in those regions. An increase was recorded in several centres, mostly in low and mid-income countries. The increases were more pronounced in the older age group, suggesting that environmental influences on the development of allergy may not be limited to early childhood.