Background: Cuba is a unique country, and despite limited economic development, has an excellent health system. However, the prevalence of asthma symptoms in children in Havana, Cuba, is unusually high.
Aim: As early life exposures are critical to the aetiology of asthma, we have studied environmental influences on the risk of wheezing in Cuban infants.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Methods: A random sample of 2032 children aged 12-15 months living in Havana was selected for inclusion in the cohort. Data were collected using questionnaires administered by researchers.
Results: Of 2032 infants invited to participate, 1956 (96%) infants provided data. The prevalence of any wheeze was 45%, severe wheeze requiring use of emergency services was 30% and recurrent wheeze on three or more occasions was 20%. The largest adjusted risk factors for any wheeze were presence of eczema [odds ratio (OR) 2.09; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.48-2.94], family history of asthma (OR 2.05; 95% CI 1.60-2.62), poor ventilation in the house (OR 1.99; 95% CI 1.48-2.67), attendance at nursery (OR 1.78; 95% CI 1.24-2.57), male sex (OR1.52; 95% CI 1.19-1.96) and the number of smokers in the house (P < 0.03 for trend), OR 1.64 (95% CI 1.17-2.31) for three or more smokers in the house compared to no smokers in the household.
Conclusion: We have identified several risk factors for any wheeze in young infants living in modern day Cuba. As the prevalence of smoking in the house is high (51%), intervention studies are required to determine effective strategies to improve infant health.