Objectives: To estimate the prevalence and severity of asthma in an adolescent population by sex and race.
Methods: Cross-sectional, population-based survey of school children.
Setting: Midwestern city experiencing damage from the 1993 Mississippi River flood.
Participants: 2,693 children attending grades 7 to 12.
Measurements: Questions from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).
Results: Two thousand six hundred ninety-three children were surveyed, for a response rate of 90%. In this population, 16.4% reported having ever been diagnosed with asthma; 25% reported wheezing in the last 12 months; 32% reported symptoms of rhinitis in the last 12 months; and 22% reported ever having hay fever. The prevalence rate for current asthma was 12.6%. Female students had significantly greater prevalence rates for current asthma (16.4% vs 9.0%, OR = 1.85); ever-diagnosed asthma (18.5% vs 14.3%, OR = 1.36); wheezing > or = 4 times in the last 12 months (12.0% vs 5.6%, OR = 1.95); current rhinitis (38.7% vs 25.4%, OR = 1.73); and hay fever (26.4% vs 18.4%, OR = 1.57). All associations with sex remained significant, except ever-diagnosed asthma, after controlling for other known risk factors in logistic regression. African-Americans had higher prevalence rates than other races with differences reaching statistical significance for ever-diagnosed asthma and current asthma; however, these relationships did not remain significant after controlling for other known risk factors in logistic regression.
Conclusions: Our prevalence rates were similar to those reported by other studies that used the ISAAC questionnaire. Female students reported significantly more asthma, wheezing, rhinitis, and hay fever than male students. Female students also reported more severe symptoms and a greater number of emergency room and hospital admissions.