Background: The prevalence of asthma and wheezing has risen during the past four decades. Recent reports suggest that the “asthma epidemic” has reached a plateau.
Objective: To examine further trends in the prevalence of childhood diagnosed asthma and wheezing in an urban environment in Greece.
Methods: A population-based cross-sectional parental questionnaire survey was repeated among third-grade and fourth-grade school children (8–10 years) of public primary schools in 2003 in the city of Patras, Greece, by using methods identical to that of surveys conducted in 1978 (completed questionnaires, n = 3003), 1991 (n = 2417) and 1998 (n = 3076).
Results: 2725 questionnaires were completed in the 2003 survey. The prevalence rates of current asthma and/or wheezing in 1978, 1991, 1998 and 2003 were 1.5%, 4.6%, 6% and 6.9%, respectively (p for trend <0.001). The lifetime prevalence of asthma and/or wheezing in the three more recent surveys was 8%, 9.6% and 12.4%, respectively (p for trend <0.001). The male:female ratios of current asthma and/or wheezing in the four surveys were 1.14:1, 1.15:1, 1.16:1 and 1.22:1, respectively. The proportion of those with wheezing diagnosed with asthma has increased during the study period, more so among non-current children with asthma.
Conclusions: Our findings show a continuous increase in the prevalence of asthma and wheezing among preadolescent children in Patras, Greece, over 25 years, albeit at a decelerating rate. There seems to be a true increase in wheezing, despite some diagnostic transfer, particularly among younger children. The male predominance of the disease has persisted in the population of this study.
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Published Online First 9 November 2006
Funding: The study was funded by a managed fund of the Scientific Committee of the University of Patras, into which MBA paid his earnings from drug trials and donations to the Respiratory Unit of the Department of Paediatrics.
Competing interests: None.
Ethical approval: All four surveys were approved by the University of Patras Ethics Committee and the Ministry of Education of Greece. The researchers approached the head masters of the primary schools surveyed and distributed the questionnaire along with an informative statement on asthma and the purpose of the study. They were assisted in the classrooms by the teachers.