Background: Phase One of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) measured the global patterns of prevalence and severity of symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis in children in 1993-1997.
Methods: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase Three was a cross-sectional survey performed 5-10 years after Phase One using the same methodology. Phase Three covered all of the major regions of the world and involved 1 059 053 children of 2 age groups from 236 centres in 98 countries.
Results: The average overall prevalence of current rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms was 14.6% for the 13- to 14-year old children (range 1.0-45%). Variation in the prevalence of severe rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms was observed between centres (range 0.0-5.1%) and regions (range 0.4% in western Europe to 2.3% in Africa), with the highest prevalence being observed mainly in the centres from middle and low income countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. Co-morbidity with asthma and eczema varied from 1.6% in the Indian sub-continent to 4.7% in North America. For 6- to 7-year old children, the average prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms was 8.5%, and large variations in symptom prevalence were also observed between regions, countries and centres.
Discussion: Wide global variations exist in the prevalence of current rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms, being higher in high vs low income countries, but the prevalence of severe symptoms was greater in less affluent countries. Co-morbidity with asthma is high particularly in Africa, North America and Oceania. This global map of symptom prevalence is of clinical importance for health professionals.