Aim: To identify age- and gender-specific prevalence rates for physician-diagnosed asthma, allergic rhinitis (AR) and eczema across a whole lifespan.
Method: Presentations of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema were identified in individuals aged 0 to 65 who consulted their general practitioner at least once in 1998-99 from a population sample of 266,733 in Scotland, and in 1991-95 for asthma and allergic rhinitis in 6,836,063 person years at risk in England and Wales.
Results: In both sexes asthma presentations peak at 4-6 years whilst eczema peaks in infancy. A second asthma peak occurs during adolescence, earlier in females, at a time when a female predominance for all three atopic diseases is established. Female predominance of eczema presentations are limited to the reproductive period of 15-49 years.
Conclusion: The patterns of presentations for asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema by age and gender suggest important gender-specific differences in disease predisposition and diagnosis.