Background: There are few studies on age and sex-specific asthma prevalence in the age range 1-6 years. The purpose of this report was to estimate age and sex specific asthma prevalence in preschool children and to analyse the influence of possible demographic and geographic determinants.
Methods: All 70 allergen avoidance day-care centres and 140 matched ordinary day-care centres across Sweden were sampled. The parents of all 8,757 children attending these day-care centres received the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) written questionnaire, supplemented with questions on medical treatment, physician assessed asthma diagnosis, and other asthma related questions. The response rate was 68%.
Results: The age specific asthma prevalence, adjusted for the underlying municipality population size, was among boys 9.7% at age 1, 11.1% at age 2, 11.4 at age 3, 10.5 at age 4, 8.7 at age 5, and 6.4 at age 6. The corresponding proportions among girls were 8.9%, 9.9%, 9.8%, 8.8%, 7.0%, and 5.0%, on average 9.6% for boys and 8.2% for girls, altogether 8.9%. In addition to age and sex the prevalence increased by municipality population density, a proxy for degree of urbanisation. Moreover, there was a remaining weak geographical gradient with increasing prevalence towards the north and the west.
Conclusion: The age-specific asthma prevalence was curvilinear with a peak around age 3 and somewhat higher for boys than for girls. The asthma prevalence increased in a slowly accelerating pace by municipality population density as a proxy for degree of urbanisation.