Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of bmjThe BMJ
BMJ. 1994 June 18; 308(6944): 1591–1596.
PMCID: PMC2540413

Changing prevalence of asthma in Australian children.


OBJECTIVE--To investigate whether prevalence of asthma in children increased in 10 years. DESIGN--Serial cross sectional studies of two populations of children by means of standard protocol. SETTING--Two towns in New South Wales: Belmont (coastal and humid) and Wagga Wagga (inland and dry). SUBJECTS--Children aged 8-10 years: 718 in Belmont and 769 in Wagga Wagga in 1982; 873 in Belmont and 795 in Wagga Wagga in 1992. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--History of respiratory illness recorded by parents in self administered questionnaire; airway hyperresponsiveness by histamine inhalation test; atopy by skin prick tests; counts of house dust mites in domestic dust. RESULTS--Prevalence of wheeze in previous 12 months increased in Belmont, from 10.4% (75/718) in 1982 to 27.6% (240/873) in 1992 (P < 0.001), and in Wagga Wagga, from 15.5% (119/769) to 23.1% (183/795) (P < 0.001). The prevalence of airway hyperresponsiveness increased twofold in Belmont to 19.8% (173/873) (P < 0.001) and 1.4-fold in Wagga Wagga to 18.1% (P < 0.05). The prevalence of airway hyperresponsiveness increased mainly in atopic children only, but the prevalence of atopy was unchanged (about 28.5% in Belmont and about 32.5% in Wagga Wagga). Numbers of house dust mites increased 5.5-fold in Belmont and 4.5-fold in Wagga Wagga. CONCLUSIONS--We suggest that exposure to higher allergen levels has increased airway abnormalities in atopic children or that mechanisms that protected airways of earlier generations of children have been altered by new environmental factors.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.3M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Mitchell EA. International trends in hospital admission rates for asthma. Arch Dis Child. 1985 Apr;60(4):376–378. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Klein R. On the Oregon trail: rationing health care. BMJ. 1991 Jan 5;302(6767):1–2. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Peat JK, Haby M, Spijker J, Berry G, Woolcock AJ. Prevalence of asthma in adults in Busselton, Western Australia. BMJ. 1992 Nov 28;305(6865):1326–1329. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Britton WJ, Woolcock AJ, Peat JK, Sedgwick CJ, Lloyd DM, Leeder SR. Prevalence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness in children: the relationship between asthma and skin reactivity to allergens in two communities. Int J Epidemiol. 1986 Jun;15(2):202–209. [PubMed]
  • Salome CM, Peat JK, Britton WJ, Woolcock AJ. Bronchial hyperresponsiveness in two populations of Australian schoolchildren. I. Relation to respiratory symptoms and diagnosed asthma. Clin Allergy. 1987 Jul;17(4):271–281. [PubMed]
  • Yan K, Salome C, Woolcock AJ. Rapid method for measurement of bronchial responsiveness. Thorax. 1983 Oct;38(10):760–765. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Toelle BG, Peat JK, Salome CM, Mellis CM, Woolcock AJ. Toward a definition of asthma for epidemiology. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1992 Sep;146(3):633–637. [PubMed]
  • O'Connor G, Sparrow D, Taylor D, Segal M, Weiss S. Analysis of dose-response curves to methacholine. An approach suitable for population studies. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1987 Dec;136(6):1412–1417. [PubMed]
  • Peat JK, Salome CM, Berry G, Woolcock AJ. Relation of dose-response slope to respiratory symptoms in a population of Australian schoolchildren. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1991 Sep;144(3 Pt 1):663–667. [PubMed]
  • Peat JK, Salome CM, Woolcock AJ. Longitudinal changes in atopy during a 4-year period: relation to bronchial hyperresponsiveness and respiratory symptoms in a population sample of Australian schoolchildren. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1990 Jan;85(1 Pt 1):65–74. [PubMed]
  • Green WF, Woolcock AJ. Tyrophagus putrescentiae: an allergenically important mite. Clin Allergy. 1978 Mar;8(2):135–144. [PubMed]
  • Gray EJ, Peat JK, Mellis CM, Harrington J, Woolcock AJ. Asthma severity and morbidity in a population sample of Sydney school children: Part I--Prevalence and effect of air pollutants in coastal regions. Aust N Z J Med. 1994 Apr;24(2):168–175. [PubMed]
  • Gergen PJ, Mullally DI, Evans R., 3rd National survey of prevalence of asthma among children in the United States, 1976 to 1980. Pediatrics. 1988 Jan;81(1):1–7. [PubMed]
  • Lee DA, Winslow NR, Speight AN, Hey EN. Prevalence and spectrum of asthma in childhood. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983 Apr 16;286(6373):1256–1258. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Peckham C, Butler N. A national study of asthma in childhood. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1978 Jun;32(2):79–85. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hurry VM, Peat JK, Woolcock AJ. Prevalence of respiratory symptoms, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and atopy in schoolchildren living in the Villawood area of Sydney. Aust N Z J Med. 1988 Oct;18(6):745–752. [PubMed]
  • Bauman A, Young L, Peat JK, Hunt J, Larkin P. Asthma under-recognition and under-treatment in an Australian community. Aust N Z J Med. 1992 Feb;22(1):36–40. [PubMed]
  • Bauman A, Mitchell CA, Henry RL, Robertson CF, Abramson MJ, Comino EJ, Hensley MJ, Leeder SR. Asthma morbidity in Australia: an epidemiological study. Med J Aust. 1992 Jun 15;156(12):827–831. [PubMed]
  • Peat JK, Tovey E, Mellis CM, Leeder SR, Woolcock AJ. Importance of house dust mite and Alternaria allergens in childhood asthma: an epidemiological study in two climatic regions of Australia. Clin Exp Allergy. 1993 Oct;23(10):812–820. [PubMed]
  • Burney PG, Chinn S, Rona RJ. Has the prevalence of asthma increased in children? Evidence from the national study of health and growth 1973-86. BMJ. 1990 May 19;300(6735):1306–1310. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Burr ML, Butland BK, King S, Vaughan-Williams E. Changes in asthma prevalence: two surveys 15 years apart. Arch Dis Child. 1989 Oct;64(10):1452–1456. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Shaw RA, Crane J, O'Donnell TV, Porteous LE, Coleman ED. Increasing asthma prevalence in a rural New Zealand adolescent population: 1975-89. Arch Dis Child. 1990 Dec;65(12):1319–1323. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Ninan TK, Russell G. Respiratory symptoms and atopy in Aberdeen schoolchildren: evidence from two surveys 25 years apart. BMJ. 1992 Apr 4;304(6831):873–875. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Haby MM, Anderson SD, Peat JK, Mellis CM, Toelle BG, Woolcock AJ. An exercise challenge protocol for epidemiological studies of asthma in children: comparison with histamine challenge. Eur Respir J. 1994 Jan;7(1):43–49. [PubMed]
  • Fleming DM, Crombie DL. Prevalence of asthma and hay fever in England and Wales. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987 Jan 31;294(6567):279–283. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Varjonen E, Kalimo K, Lammintausta K, Terho P. Prevalence of atopic disorders among adolescents in Turku, Finland. Allergy. 1992 Jun;47(3):243–248. [PubMed]
  • Hill R, Williams J, Tattersfield A, Britton J. Change in use of asthma as a diagnostic label for wheezing illness in schoolchildren. BMJ. 1989 Oct 7;299(6704):898–898. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Sporik R, Holgate ST, Platts-Mills TA, Cogswell JJ. Exposure to house-dust mite allergen (Der p I) and the development of asthma in childhood. A prospective study. N Engl J Med. 1990 Aug 23;323(8):502–507. [PubMed]
  • Platts-Mills TA, Thomas WR, Aalberse RC, Vervloet D, Champman MD. Dust mite allergens and asthma: report of a second international workshop. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1992 May;89(5):1046–1060. [PubMed]
  • Sporik R, Chapman MD, Platts-Mills TA. House dust mite exposure as a cause of asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 1992 Oct;22(10):897–906. [PubMed]
  • Feather IH, Warner JA, Holgate ST, Thompson PJ, Stewart GA. Cohabiting with domestic mites. Thorax. 1993 Jan;48(1):5–9. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group