Asthma stable, allergies rising in British children

The rate of asthma among children in the United Kingdom seems to have stabilised, but the tendency for children to develop allergies is still increasing, according to a study published in the August 2004 issue of BMJ.

During the past 35 years, the prevalence of childhood asthma has risen. Although this is partly due to increased diagnosis in children with symptoms, there has also been a clear increase in asthma-like symptoms.

Researchers examined the current situation in the United Kingdom. Their earlier studies showed a sharp rise in diagnosed asthma since 1964.

In May 1999, the parents of 3,537 primary school children in Aberdeen completed a questionnaire about respiratory symptoms and diagnoses of asthma, eczema, and hay fever.

Prevalence of asthma or wheeze, and the proportion of children with respiratory symptoms reporting a diagnosis of asthma, changed little. However, the team did find small but significant increases in the diagnosis of both eczema and hay fever between 1994 and 1999.

The rate of rise in the prevalence of childhood asthma has slowed, although a quarter of primary school children have been diagnosed as having asthma at some time in their lives, say the authors.

Nevertheless, the continuing increases between 1994 and 1999 in diagnosed eczema and hay fever suggest that the tendency for children to develop allergies is still increasing. Although these increases may also in part reflect changes in diagnostic fashion, they conclude.


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