Seventy five children with asthma (42 boys and 33 girls; age range 4 years 2 months to 15 years) and 75 of their siblings (37 boys and 38 girls; age range 4 years 3 months to 17 years 8 months) were studied to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the increased prevalence of asthma in boys, a prevalence that tends to disappear after puberty. Immediate cutaneous hypersensitivity to five allergens and maximum fall in peak expiratory flow rate after six minutes of treadmill running (bronchial lability) were determined in patients and siblings. There was no significant difference between boys and girls in skin test reactivity to single or multiple allergens in the sibling group. The percentage fall in peak expiratory flow rate after exercise was significantly greater in male than in female siblings and when a positive test was defined as a fall after exercise of either 10% or 15% of the rate before exercise the number of positive tests was significantly greater in boys. The results suggest that more boys than girls in this age group have asthma because their bronchial lability is greater, and not because more boys are atopic.
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