Objectives: To follow a population of preschool children with and without parent reported wheeze over a period of 6-11 years to determine prognosis and its important predictive factors.
Design: Longitudinal series of five postal surveys based on the international study of asthma and allergies in childhood questionnaire carried out between 1993 and 2004.
Setting: Two general practice populations, south Manchester.
Participants: 628 children aged less than 5 years at recruitment and those with at least six years' follow-up data.
Main outcome measures: Parent completed questionnaire data for respiratory symptoms and associated features.
Results: Of 628 children included in the study, 201 (32%) had parent reported wheeze at the first observation (baseline), of whom 27% also reported the symptom on the second occasion (persistent asthma). The only important baseline predictors of persistent asthma were exercise induced wheeze (odds ratio 3.94, 95% confidence interval 1.72 to 9.00) and a history of atopic disorders (4.44, 1.94 to 10.13). The presence of both predictors indicated a likelihood of 53.2% of developing asthma; if only one feature was present this decreased to 17.2%, whereas if neither was present the likelihood was 10.9%. Family history of asthma was not predictive of persistent asthma among children with preschool wheeze.
Conclusion: Using two simple predictive factors (baseline parent reported exercise induced wheeze and a history of atopic disorders), it is possible to estimate the likelihood of future asthma in children presenting with preschool wheeze. The absence of baseline exercise induced wheeze and a history of atopic disorders reduces the likelihood of subsequent asthma by a factor of five.