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Keywords:

  • socioeconomic status;
  • atopy;
  • atopic asthma;
  • non-atopic asthma;
  • atopic rhinitis;
  • non-atopic rhinitis;
  • parental education

de Meer G, Reijneveld SA, Brunekreef B. Wheeze in children: the impact of parental education on atopic and non-atopic symptoms. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2010: 21: 823–830. © 2009 John Wiley & Sons A/S

There is conflicting evidence for the relationship between parental socioeconomic position and their children’s asthma. The aim of this study was to investigate relationships between parental education and respiratory symptoms in their children, distinguishing atopic and non-atopic symptoms. A cross-sectional survey among 3262 elementary school children (age 8–13) was performed; data on parental education were obtained for 3213 children. Parents completed a questionnaire on their child’s allergic and respiratory symptoms, and potential explanatory variables including family history, indoor environment, and the child’s medical history. Subsets of children were tested for atopy (n = 1983), lung function (n = 2325), and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) (n = 880). Logistic regression was used to assess relationships of health outcomes with parental education. A high parental education was associated with an increased risk of atopic sensitization to indoor allergens (OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.02; 1.69). Studied explanatory variables did not influence the relationship. In contrast, a high parental education protected children from wheeze (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.61; 0.97). This only applied to non-atopic wheeze (OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.43; 0.99) and not to atopic wheeze (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.60; 1.31). The protection from non-atopic wheeze in children of highly educated parents declined after adjustment for household smoking and breastfeeding (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.58; 1.57). Similar results were observed for non-atopic and atopic rhinitis. We conclude that children from highly educated parents are protected from non-atopic respiratory symptoms, which is largely explained by a lower rate of household smoking and a higher rate of breastfeeding.