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Keywords:

  • allergy;
  • prevalence;
  • trend;
  • children;
  • epidemiology

To cite this article: Yura A, Kouda K, Iki M, Shimizu T. Trends of allergic symptoms in school children: large-scale long-term consecutive cross-sectional studies in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2011; 22: 631–637.

Abstract

Background:  Trends in the prevalence rates of allergic symptoms in children have been discussed extensively, but it remains uncertain which symptoms increase or decrease over time owing to the lack of large-scale long-term consecutive cross-sectional studies performed on a representative population of children.

Objective:  To clarify the trends in the prevalence rates of allergic symptoms in Japanese children.

Methods:  Total population questionnaire surveys were conducted 15 times from 1975 to 2006 for all children attending public elementary schools in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, with the number of subjects ranging from 460,000 to 900,000. Parents of the children completed the questionnaire about allergic symptoms and other symptoms, including wheeze, physician-diagnosed atopic dermatitis, rhinitis, and itching eyes.

Results:  Response rates were consistently over 90%. The prevalence of wheezing was constant until 1983, then increased from 1983 until 1993, then stabilized at about 4.4%. The lifetime prevalence of atopic dermatitis increased to 24% by 1993, and then decreased. The prevalence of rhinitis increased to 25% by 2003, whereas the prevalence of non-seasonal symptoms plateaued from 1993 on at 11% and vernal symptoms increased. The prevalence of itching eyes continued to increase to 21% in 2006, and vernal symptoms increased sharply.

Conclusions:  In Osaka Prefecture, Japan, the turning point when the prevalence of wheezing in schoolchildren had begun to increase was 1983. And the turning point when the increase in the prevalence of wheezing, atopic dermatitis, and non-seasonal allergic rhinitis turned to decrease or constant was 1993. The prevalence of rhinitis and itching eyes in spring was still increasing in 2006.