Background: Questions on asthma symptoms like "wheezing" or "whistling in the chest" must be easily understood by the general population. In preparation of a standardized German questionnaire we investigated, how children with asthma and their parents would describe symptoms during an asthma attack.
Methods: From June until December 1991, 72 children aged 13-15 years, and parents of 138 children aged 7-15 years with diagnosed asthma, where interviewed whilst they visited the outpatient department of the universities of Berlin, Leipzig, and Munich. The parents and children were asked to answer a questionnaire which included a list of adjectives and descriptions proposed to describe the child's breathing during an asthma attack. The items included descriptions which have been used on German questionnaires, others which we considered possibly useful, anc control items which we considered inappropriate. Parents and children were asked to rate on scales how much they would agree or disagree to the proposed items as possible descriptors. Descriptive and cluster analyses revealed those descriptions which received the best ratings.
Results: The rating was rather independent of the sex of the child, the respondent (child vs parent) and the severity of attacks, but differences between regions were observed.
Conclusion: The verbal descriptors with the best rating will be used for the wording of a German questionnaire on asthma symptoms.