Background: To determine the prevalence of asthma symptoms in a sample of Greek children aged 10-12 years, and to evaluate these rates in relation to anthropometric, lifestyle characteristics and dietary habits.
Methods: During 2006, 700 schoolchildren (323 male and 377 female), aged 10-12 years (4th to 6th school grade), were selected from 18 schools located in the greater Athens area. The schools were randomly selected from a list provided by the regional educational offices. To achieve a representative sample the schools enrolled were selected from various region of the Athens area. For each child a questionnaire was completed that was developed for the purposes of the study to retrieve information on: age, sex, school class, other socio-demographic characteristics, anthropometric measurements, dietary habits (through a semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire) and physical activity status; the presence of asthma and allergies was assessed by the standard ISAAC questionnaire.
Results: The prevalence of wheezing in the past was 25% in boys and 19% in girls, while the prevalence of current wheezing was 9.0% in boys and 5.8% in girls. The prevalence of any asthma symptoms was 27.6% in boys and 20.4% in girls. Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that increased body weight and sedentary lifestyle is associated with asthma symptoms only in boys.
Conclusion: The present cross-sectional study cannot establish causal relationships between asthma and increased body weight of schoolchildren; however, our findings underline the associations between asthma, increased body weight, and physical activity at population level, and urge for actions that should be taken by public health policy makers in order to prevent these conditions among children.