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Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2010 Aug;21(5):859-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2010.01055.x. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

The clinical expression of asthma in schoolchildren has changed between 1996 and 2006.

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Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.


Several studies have reported diverging trends in the prevalence of asthma and wheeze. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical expression of childhood asthma in 1996 and 2006 by studying asthma morbidity, treatment, and environmental exposures in school children with physician-diagnosed asthma and wheeze, respectively. All children enrolled in first or second grade (7-8 yr-old) in three municipalities in northern Sweden were invited to a questionnaire study in 1996 and 2006, respectively. In 1996, 3430 (97%) participated; and in 2006, 2585 (96%) participated. The same parental completed questionnaire, including the ISAAC questions, was used in both surveys. Physician-diagnosed asthma was reported at 5.7% in 1996 and 7.4% in 2006. A significantly greater proportion of children with asthma were using inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) in 2006, 67% vs. 55% in 1996. This increase was parallel to a major decrease in severe asthma symptoms such as disturbed sleep because of wheeze (49% vs. 38%) and troublesome asthma (21% vs. 11%). The prevalence of current wheeze among the asthmatics decreased significantly; however, this was seen only among children not using ICS. Parental smoking decreased significantly as did the proportion living in damp buildings. In conclusion, although asthma remains a major public health issue in school age children, children with asthma had less respiratory symptoms and a better asthma control in 2006 compared to 1996. This parallels with an increase in treatment with ICS, more beneficial environmental conditions, and an increased diagnostic intensity resulting in a larger proportion of children with mild symptoms being diagnosed as having asthma.

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