Background: Childhood is the most important age for asthma development. Recent reports indicate that the prevalence of asthma in children has plateaued after having increased for decades.
Aims: To study prevalence and risk factor patterns of asthma by age and by time.
Methods: In 1996, all children in grade 1–2 (age 7–8) in three cities in Northern Sweden were invited to an expanded International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) questionnaire. A total of 3430 children (97%) participated yearly until 2000 (age 11–12). A subset (n = 2454) was invited to skin-prick testing in 1996 and 2000 with 88% and 90% participation. In 2006, another cohort (n = 2704) was identified and studied by identical methods with 96% participation. A total of 1700 children (90% of invited) were skin-prick tested.
Results and comments: From age 7–8 to 11–12, the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma increased, 5.7%–7.7% (P < 0.01) while current wheeze decreased, 11.7%–9.4% (P < 0.01), indicating a less diverse spectrum of symptoms with age. The yearly remission from asthma was 10% (lasting remission 5%), largely determined by allergic sensitisation. Allergic sensitisation (OR 5) and a family history of asthma (OR 3) were important risk factors for asthma at age 7–8 and 11–12. However, several other significant risk factors at age 7–8 (low birth weight, respiratory infections and house dampness) lost importance until age 11–12. Maternal and paternal asthma were equally important risk factors (OR 3–4) at age 7–8. Sibling asthma was only a marker of parental disease.
Future perspectives: Through comparison with the 2006 cohort, trends in prevalence and in risk factors from 1996 to 2006 will be studied.
Please cite this paper as: Bjerg A and Rönmark E. Asthma in school age: prevalence and risk factors by time and by age. The Clinical Respiratory Journal 2008; 2: 123–126.