Allergy-related disorders (ARDs) among Ethiopian primary school-aged children: Prevalence and associated risk factors

Nezar Mehanna, Nader Mohamed, Moges Wordofa, Dessie Abera, Abiyot Mesfin, Mistire Wolde, Kassu Desta, Aster Tsegaye, Bineyam Taye
PloS One 2018, 13 (9): e0204521

BACKGROUND: There has been a noticeable increase in the prevalence of allergy-related disorders (ARDs) in the modern era. Urbanization is believed to be a major environmental risk factor for the onset of ARDs but data from low- to middle-income countries is limited.

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to assess the prevalence of ARDs and atopy among a population of rural Ethiopian school children and identify environmental and lifestyle factors associated with such disorders.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study on 541 school-children. An interviewer-led questionnaire administered to the mothers of each participant provided information on demographic and lifestyle variables. Questions on allergic disease symptoms were based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children (ISAAC) core allergy and environmental questionnaire. Skin prick test for common allergens German cockroach (Blattella germanica) and dust mite (Dermatophagoides) was performed to define atopy. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to determine the odds ratio between ARDs and atopy with specific environmental and lifestyle habits.

RESULTS: 541 children responded to the survey questions: the majority of participants were female (60.3%) and aged 10-15 years-old. The prevalence of any ARD was 27%, while the rates of ever-having eczema, rhinitis, and wheeze was found to be 16.8%, 9.6%, and 8.6% respectively. Only 3.6% (19 school-children) tested positive for any skin sensitization. Analysis of associated factors for ARDs found that a family history of allergic disorders (AOR: 2.80; p-value<0.01), use of insecticides (AOR: 2.05; p-value<0.01), and wearing open-toed shoes (AOR: 2.19; p-value = 0.02) were all significantly associated factors. Insecticide use, river-bathing, and infection with intestinal parasites were found to be significantly associated factors for atopy. Other potential risk factors such as frequent use of soap, bacterial infection, and household crowding had no statistical significance.

CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that the prevalence of skin sensitization and ARDs in rural populations of developing countries is still relatively low. We identified several possible risk factors for further investigation. Overall, the significance of identified risk factors appears to indicate that genetic predisposition and exposure to environmental pollution are more important to the etiology of ARDs and atopy than specific lifestyle behaviors.

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