A cross sectional study was carried out to determine the prevalence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness and asthma in 3067 students aged 11-17 years in an urban and a rural area of Guangzhou (Canton), China. The methods used included a self administered questionnaire, a histamine bronchial provocation test, and allergen skinprick tests. Bronchial hyperresponsiveness was defined as a 20% fall in FEV1 and peak expiratory flow at a provoking dose of histamine (PD20) less than 7.8 mumol on two occasions four weeks apart. The response rate was 98.0% and 99.2% in the two areas. The prevalence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness was 4.1% and of diagnosed asthma 2.4% in the total population. There were no significant differences in prevalence between the urban and the rural area or between boys and girls. The 11-12 year group had a higher prevalence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness (7.6%) than the older groups. Of the 125 with bronchial hyperresponsiveness, 12.0% were defined as having severe or moderate (PD20 less than 0.8 mumol), 26% mild (0.9-3.2 mumol), and 62% slight bronchial hyperresponsiveness (3.3-7.8 mumol). The severity of bronchial hyperresponsiveness was closely related to diagnosed asthma, wheezing, and cough, though half the students with bronchial hyperresponsiveness were symptom free. The most common allergens were house dust and house dust mite in the city, and hay dust, pollen, and feathers in the rural area. The odds ratios for having respectively slight, mild or moderate, and severe bronchial hyperresponsiveness were 5.9, 21.0, and 30.4 for atopy; 1.9, 1.9, and 7.3 for early respiratory infection; and 3.1, 2.5, and 5.6 for a history of parental asthma.
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