Background: The prevalence of asthma and wheezing has risen during the last 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 and fourth grade schoolchildren (8-10 years) of public primary schools in 2003 in the city of Patras, Greece by using identical methodology 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. Prevalence rates of current asthma and/or wheezing in 1978, 1991, 1998, and 2003 were 1.5%, 4.6%, 6.0%, and 6.9%, respectively (p for trend <0.001). The lifetime prevalence of asthma and/or wheezing in the three more recent surveys was 8.0%, 9.6%, and 12.4%, respectively (p for trend <0.001). The male to 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 wheezers diagnosed as asthmatics has increased during the study period, more so among non-current asthmatic children.
Conclusions: Our findings show a continuous increase in the prevalence of asthma and wheezing among pre-adolescent children in Patras, Greece over 25 years, albeit at a decelerating rate. There appears to be a true increase of wheezing, despite some diagnostic transfer particularly among younger children. The male predominance of the disease has persisted in the population of this study.