Hospitalization rates for asthma have been reported to be higher in males than females in children under age 15, but it is not clear whether this disparity reflects gender differences in prevalence, severity, or treatment. We performed a prospective cohort study as part of the Emergency Medicine Network. Patients aged 2-13 years who presented to the emergency department (ED) with acute asthma underwent a structured interview in the ED and another by telephone 2 weeks later. Of 1,602 patients, 61% (95% CI, 59-64%) were boys. Girls were slightly older than boys, although no material differences existed in acute presentation, chronic asthma characteristics, ED treatment, or ED course. There was no difference in admission rates for boys or girls (20% vs. 22%; P = 0.48). This finding persisted when adjusting for other factors in a multivariate logistic regression model. No sex differences were observed for relapse or ongoing exacerbation on univariate or multivariate analysis. These data suggest that asthma is not inherently more severe in boys with asthma compared to girls, and that the increased rate of hospitalizations in boys under age 13 is due to differences in prevalence, not severity.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.