Prevalence and risk factors for asthma, rhinitis, eczema, and atopy among preschool children in an Andean city

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 10;15(7):e0234633. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234633. eCollection 2020.


Background: Limited data are available on prevalence and associated risk factors for atopy and allergic diseases from high-altitude urban settings in Latin America.

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of atopy, asthma, rhinitis, and eczema, and associations with relevant risk factors in preschool children in the Andean city of Cuenca.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was undertaken using a representative sample of 535 children aged 3-5 years attending 30 nursery schools in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. Data on allergic diseases and risk factors were collected by parental questionnaire. Atopy was measured by skin prick test (SPT) reactivity to a panel of relevant aeroallergens. Associations between risk factors and the prevalence of atopy and allergic diseases were estimated using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Asthma symptoms were reported for 18% of children, rhinitis for 48%, and eczema for 28%, while SPT reactivity was present in 33%. Population fractions of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema attributable to SPT were 3.4%, 7.9%, and 2.9%, respectively. In multivariable models, an increased risk of asthma was observed among children with a maternal history of rhinitis (OR 1.85); rhinitis was significantly increased in children of high compared to low socioeconomic level (OR 2.09), among children with a maternal history of rhinitis (OR 2.29) or paternal history of eczema (OR 2.07), but reduced among children attending daycare (OR 0.64); eczema was associated with a paternal history of eczema (OR 3.73), and SPT was associated with having a dog inside the house (OR 1.67).

Conclusions: A high prevalence of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema symptoms were observed among preschool children in a high-altitude Andean setting. Despite a high prevalence of atopy, only a small fraction of symptoms was associated with atopy. Parental history of allergic diseases was the most consistent risk factor for symptoms in preschool children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ecuador / epidemiology
  • Eczema / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Rhinitis / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Allergens

Grants and funding

Funding was provided by CEDIA (Corporación Ecuatoriana para el desarrollo de la Investigación y la Academia), Universidad del Azuay (UDA), Dirección de Investigación, Universidad de Cuenca (DIUC) and Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.