Impact of gender on asthma in childhood and adolescence: a GA2LEN review

Allergy. 2008 Jan;63(1):47-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2007.01524.x. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


A number of studies have shown gender differences in the prevalence of wheeze and asthma. The aim of this review was to examine published results on gender differences in childhood and adolescent asthma incidence and prevalence, define current concepts and to identify new research needs. A Medline search was performed with the search words (gender OR sex) AND (child OR childhood OR adolescence) AND (asthma). Articles that reported on absence or presence of gender differences in asthma were included and reviewed, and cross-references were checked. Boys are consistently reported to have more prevalent wheeze and asthma than girls. In adolescence, the pattern changes and onset of wheeze is more prevalent in females than males. Asthma, after childhood, is more severe in females than in males, and is underdiagnosed and undertreated in female adolescents. Possible explanations for this switch around puberty in the gender susceptibility to develop asthma include hormonal changes and gender-specific differences in environmental exposures. This aspect needs consideration of the doctors and allergists who diagnose and treat asthmatic individuals. In conclusion, sex hormones are likely to play an important role in the development and outcome of the allergic immune response and asthma in particular. By obtaining functional data from appropriate models, the exact underlying mechanisms can be unravelled. To examine the effect of gender-specific differences in environmental exposures and changes of asthma prevalence and severity in puberty, larger populations may need to be investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors