In 1995, as part of the international study of asthma and allergies in childhood (ISAAC), we surveyed symptoms of atopic disease in England, Scotland, Wales, and the offshore islands of Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey.4,5
A self completed questionnaire which adhered to the core ISAAC protocol was administered to secondary school children aged 12-14 in school years 8 and 9 (S2 and S3 in Scotland). In 2002 the survey was repeated in Scotland, Wales, and the islands in the same school years, using the same questionnaire and procedures in the same period of the year and, mostly, in the same schools. In England, only the schools in the South East Region were surveyed a second time. The shows the changes in prevalence over the seven years from 1995 to 2002.
Trends in symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and atopic eczema in 12-14 year olds, British Isles, 1995-2002
Overall, the prevalence of any wheezing or whistling in the chest in the past 12 months fell from 34% to 28% (19% relative reduction). Even larger proportional falls were observed for frequent attacks (35%) and speech limiting attacks (24%). Large reductions were also observed for symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (16%) and atopic eczema (30%). The proportion of children reporting “ever” having had “asthma” or “eczema” increased (26% and 15%), as did the lifetime prevalence of “hay fever” (8%). Trends in the four regions were similar.
The fall in prevalence is consistent with other sources. From 1995 to 2000, hospital admissions for asthma fell by 20.4% in 10-14 year olds in England, Scotland, and Wales combined (see ). From 1995 to 2002, in 10-14 year olds in a sample of 75 English and Welsh practices, visits to a general practitioner for episodes of asthma decreased by 47% (from 38.3 to 20.4 per 1000). Recently released data from the health survey for England shows that from 1997 to 2001, the 12 month prevalence of wheezing in 10-14 year olds, based on parental reporting, fell by 18% (from 17.4% to 14.2%).