Time trends and risk factors for rhinoconjunctivitis in New Zealand children: An International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) survey


Mr Tadd Clayton, Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. Fax: +64 9373 7602; email: t.clayton@auckland.ac.nz


Aim:  To investigate prevalence, time trends and factors associated with rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis not related to acute infections in New Zealand.

Methods:  The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) surveyed children aged 6–7 and 13–14 years for symptoms of these conditions. Five New Zealand centres were surveyed on two occasions (Phase One and Phase Three) 8–10 years apart. In Phase Three, questions were included on environmental factors, which might be associated with rhinoconjunctivitis. We report findings related to symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis among 24 190 New Zealand children.

Results:  Symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis in the past year were reported in 11.4% of 6- to 7-year-old children and 18% of 13- to 14-year-old adolescents in Phase Three compared with 9.5 and 19.1%, respectively, in Phase One. Severe symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis were reported in 0.5% of children and 0.8% of adolescents. Current symptoms were more common in males at 6–7 years and in females of 13–14 years, and Māori and Pacific Island ethnic groups had higher prevalence compared with those of European descent, especially in the older age group. For immigrant children, there was a very strong positive relationship between symptoms and length of time resident in New Zealand, supporting the probable importance of environmental factors. A positive association was found between symptoms and use of paracetamol in infancy or in the last year, and weaker associations were noted for antibiotic use, exercise, and regular pasta ingestion.

Conclusions:  Further study of environmental factors is recommended.