Frequency of emergency room visits for childhood asthma in Ottawa, Canada: the role of weather

Int J Biometeorol. 2005 Sep;50(1):48-56. doi: 10.1007/s00484-005-0262-6. Epub 2005 Apr 22.


The aim of this study was to evaluate associations between meteorological conditions and the number of emergency department visits for asthma in a children's hospital in Ottawa, Canada. A case-crossover study design was used. Hospital emergency department visits for asthma between 1992 and 2000 were identified based on patients' presenting complaints. We obtained hourly measures for the following meteorological variables: wind speed, temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, and visibility. Particular emphasis was placed on exploring the association between asthma visits and fog, thunderstorms, snow, and liquid and freezing forms of precipitation. In total, there were 18,970 asthma visits among children between 2 and 15 years of age. The number of visits and weather characteristics were grouped into 6 h case and control intervals. The occurrence of fog or liquid precipitation was associated with an increased number of asthma visits, while snow was associated with a reduced number (P<0.05). Stratified analyses by season found no association in any of the four calendar intervals between the number of asthma visits and visibility, change in relative humidity and change in temperature. In contrast, summertime thunderstorm activity was associated with an odds ratio of 1.35 (95% CI=1.02-1.77) relative to summer periods with no activity. Models that incorporate calendar and meteorological data may help emergency departments to more efficiently allocate resources needed to treat children presenting with respiratory distress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Seasons
  • Weather*