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S Afr Med J. 2006 Jan;96(1):67-70.

Prevalence of exercise-induced bronchospasm in Thokoza schoolchildren.

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  • 1Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.



Asthma is a common childhood illness, with a prevalence of 1 in 10 children. Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is a common feature of asthma and is found more often in children than in adults.


To determine the prevalence and potential impact of various factors on the prevalence of EIB in Thokoza schoolchildren.


Data were collected on respiratory health and the home environment of children living in Thokoza, Gauteng. A total of 475 9- and 10-year-old children performed the free-running asthma screening test (FRAST). An abnormal response to FRAST was defined as a reduction in the post-exercise peak flow of more than 15% of the pre-exercise value, at 3- and 10- minute intervals. All children who had a fall in post-exercise flow rate (PEFR) of more than 15% on 2 occasions after FRAST were classified as having EIB.


Using the above criteria to diagnose EIB, an overall prevalence rate of 7.26% (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.5 - 10.3%) was recorded. A less rigorous definition of EIB is a fall in PEFR of more than 10% on 2 occasions after FRAST, and if this was used then the prevalence of EIB was 15.69% (95% CI: 10.6 - 20.8%). Difficulty breathing and a tight chest were the most prevalent respiratory symptoms in children with EIB (odds ratio (OR): 1.79, 95% CI: 0.49 - 6.49 and OR 1.69, 95% CI: 0.72 - 3.99, respectively). The use of gas and electricity as domestic fuels was the strongest risk factor associated with EIB, as shown by logistical regression analysis using an adjusted OR in a reduced model (OR 2.44, 95% CI: 0.71 - 8.44 and OR 2.33, 95% CI: 0.59 - 9.24, respectively).


The prevalence of EIB reported in this study is higher than that reported in studies from other African countries, with the exception of a study from Kenya. Findings of the present study suggest that there may be a trend towards increasing prevalence of EIB in South African urban areas.

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