Prevalence of asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis: two surveys, 6 years apart, in Kota Bharu, Malaysia

B S Quah, I Wan-Pauzi, N Ariffin, A R Mazidah
Respirology: Official Journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology 2005, 10 (2): 244-9

OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis in school children in Kota Bharu, Malaysia, and in so doing to determine the differences in symptom prevalence rates of asthma, and atopic diseases in Kota Bharu school children between 1995 and 2001.

METHODOLOGY: In two studies (1995 and 2001), year one primary school (PS) pupils (6-7 years old) and secondary school (SS) year two pupils (13-14 years old) were randomly selected from the district of Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. In 1995, 3939 PS children and 3116 SS children participated, and in 2001 3157 PS children and 3004 SS children participated. The Phase I International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood prevalence written questionnaire and video questionnaire (only shown to SS children) were used in both studies.

RESULTS: The written questionnaire showed no significant changes in the prevalence (1995, 2001) of ever wheeze (8.3%, 6.9%P = 0.06), current wheeze (5.4%, 4.3%P = 0.08), exercise-induced wheeze (EIW; 3.9%, 3.7%P = 0.63), and rhinoconjunctivitis (4.6%, 5%P = 0.42) among PS children. The prevalence of flexural itchy rash increased from 14% to 17.6% (P = 0.004) and night cough decreased from 20.4% to 17.5% (P = 0.005). There were also no significant changes in these symptoms among SS children (1995, 2001): ever wheeze (10.7%, 12%P = 0.37), current wheeze (6.8%, 5.7%P = 0.20), EIW (9.9%, 11.6%P = 0.28), night cough (21.6%, 24%P = 0.39), rhinoconjunctivitis (11%, 15%P = 0.11), and flexural itchy rash (12%, 13%P = 0.11). The video questionnaire showed no significant changes in the prevalence of symptoms in the previous 12 months (1995 vs 2001) for wheeze at rest (3.8%, 2.8%P = 0.12), EIW (6.9%, 8.8%P = 0.32), waking with wheeze (1.7%, 1.7%P = 1.0), and severe wheeze (2.1%, 3%P = 0.12). Night cough in the previous 12 months increased significantly from 5.1% to 8.3% (P = 0.007).

CONCLUSION: Although asthma and atopic disorders are common in this country, the results revealed no major changes in the prevalence rates of these diseases over a period of 6 years.

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