The 2002-2007 trends of prevalence of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema in Irish schoolchildren

Eileen M Duggan, Jennifer Sturley, Anthony P Fitzgerald, Ivan J Perry, Jonathan O'B Hourihane
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2012, 23 (5): 464-71

BACKGROUND: Irish adolescents have the third highest asthma prevalence in the world. Few data examine trends of prevalence of asthma and allergic disorders in younger Irish children. We compared the prevalence of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema in school children, aged 6-9 in 2002 and 2007.

METHODS: In two cross-sectional studies, parents of children aged 6-9, completed identical ISAAC-based questionnaires in the same 24 Cork City schools in 2002 (n = 1474, response rate = 74.8%) and in 2007 (n = 1535, response rate = 76.2%).

RESULTS: The prevalence of asthma in our study population of schoolchildren, aged 6-9 remained stable in 2007 (23.5%) since the 2002 finding of 21.7% (p = 0.27). Significant increases were found in the prevalence of rhino-conjunctivitis (7.6-10.6%, p = 0.005) and eczema (8.9-13.5%, p < 0.001). In 2007, male preponderance for suffering the symptoms of current asthma existed (M:F 1.2:1, p = 0.075), although it had lost its significance since 2002 (M:F 1.5:1, p < 0.001). M:F ratio for most allergic rhinitis related symptoms moved from equal sex distribution to male predominance (nasal problems ever: 2002 - M:F, 1.1:1, p = 0.117; 2007 - M:F, 1.2:1, p = 0.012, current rhinitis: 2002 - M:F 1.2:1, p = 0.98; 2007 M:F 1.3:1, p = 0.009, hay fever ever: 2002 - M:F 1:1, p = 0.57; 2007 - M:F 1.5:1, p = 0.007). The sex-specific prevalence of rhino-conjunctivitis and the severity of symptoms suffered, remained equally sex distributed in both timeframes. From 2002 to 2007, the prevalence of all the reported symptoms of eczema were equally distributed between the sexes, while lifetime prevalence of eczema moved from male predominance to equal distribution.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of asthma in 6-9 yr old Cork schoolchildren remained static between 2002 and 2007; however, rhino-conjunctivitis and eczema have become increasingly prevalent. Co-morbidity of allergic conditions continues to pose a considerable health burden in this young population. We also demonstrated an alteration in the sex-specific profile of current asthma and lifetime allergic rhinitis towards equalization in distribution.

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