Asthma in preschool children: Prevalence and risk factors

M. M. Haby*, J. K. Peat, G. B. Marks, A. J. Woolcock, S. R. Leeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background - The prevalence of asthma in children has increased in many countries over recent years. To plan effective interventions to reverse this trend we need a better understanding of the risk factors for asthma in early life. This study was undertaken to measure the prevalence of, and risk factors for, asthma in preschool children. Methods - Parents of children aged 3-5 years living in two cities (Lismore, n=383; Wagga Wagga, n=591) in New South Wales, Australia were surveyed by questionnaire to ascertain the presence of asthma and various proposed risk factors for asthma in their children. Recent asthma was defined as ever having been diagnosed with asthma and having cough or wheeze in the last 12 months and having used an asthma medication in the last 12 months. Atopy was measured by skin prick tests to six common allergens. Results - The prevalence of recent asthma was 22% in Lismore and 18% in Wagga Wagga. Factors which increased the risk of recent asthma were: atopy (odds ratio (OR) 2.35, 95% CI 1.49 to 3.72), having a parent with a history of asthma (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.34 to 3.16), having had a serious respiratory infection in the first 2 years of life (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.25 to 2.99), and a high dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.15 to 3.60). Breast feeding (OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.74) and having three or more older siblings (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.71) decreased the risk of recent asthma. Conclusions - Of the factors tested, those that have the greatest potential to be modified to reduce the risk of asthma are breast feeding and consumption of polyunsaturated fats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-595
Number of pages7
JournalThorax
Volume56
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Financial support for the studies was provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Community Health and Anti-Tuberculosis Association, and the Institute of Respiratory Medicine. This work was undertaken while Michelle Haby was a PhD candidate, supported by a scholarship from the Public Health Research and Development Committee of the NHMRC.

Keywords

  • Asthma
  • Preschool children
  • Prevalence
  • Risk factors

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