Two epidemiological surveys of the prevalence of bronchial asthma in schoolchildren in Taipei, Taiwan, were conducted in 1974 and 1985. The same questionnaire and school, and schoolchildren of the same age (7-15 years), were studied in these two surveys. Bronchial asthma was defined as at least three paroxysmal, recurrent attacks of wheezing and dyspnea in the previous 12 months. A total of 23,678 children were studied in 1974 and 147,373 children in 1985. Data from other Asian Pacific countries were also reviewed.
The results: 1) The questionnaire was able to differentiate asthmatics from nonasthmatics on the basis of differences in methacholine challenge, intracutaneous skin testing, total eosinophil count, total serum IgE, and RAST between the two groups. 2) The prevalence of childhood asthma increased from 1.30% in 1974 to 5.07% in 1985, with boys dominating in both studies. 3) The increase in asthma prevalence could not be explained by air pollution or exposure to new allergens. 4) The prevalence of childhood asthma in the Asian Pacific countries are generally comparable to those of Western countries, and the present study and studies from Japan and New Guinea showed an increasing tendency. Thus childhood asthma is a major problem in the Asian Pacific countries as well as in Western countries.